Stu Bykofsky: Certified or not, he's top cop

Posted: March 16, 2012

H E CARRIES a gun, he displays a badge, he wears a uniform, but Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is not a certified police officer, technically speaking, and shouldn't be armed, badged and uniformed.

Since 2004, state law has required that anyone seeking to become a law-enforcement agent in the commonwealth must first pass a comprehensive test and be certified by the Municipal Police Officers' Training and Education Commission. The law applies to all police - campus, SEPTA, airport, sheriff - with "general police powers and charged with making arrests in connection with the enforcement of the criminal or traffic laws."

"The minute they wear the badge or the gun or present themselves as a police officer . . . they must have certification," the commission's administrative officer, Dr. E. Beverly Young, told me.

In a lovably Philadelphia mishmash, Ramsey is not certified.

But he soon will be, he told me during a Wednesday chat. He had just returned from Harrisburg, where he had taken the written portion of the test.

Just a crazy coincidence?

Ramsey says no one told him I was preparing a column that might have been titled Philly's Top Cop is a Faux Cop. I had made some preliminary calls to the Municipal Police Officers' Training and Education Commission before calling him, and I believe someone there might have talked. I also believe the source who tipped me to the - shall we say - irony - of the commissioner's being out of compliance may have been stirring the pot elsewhere.

"You can tell the gentleman who's been calling I will soon be legit and able to lock him up," Ramsey said with a mischievous laugh.

Shortly after being named commissioner in January 2008, Ramsey was made aware of the law, he told me, but he also was told that two of his predecessors had not been certified and so, well, he just put it off.

You know how that goes.

"I'm the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum," he said. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice, has been a cop for 40 years and was certified in Illinois and Washington, D.C., when he worked there.

No one was questioning his credentials, just his certification here, I said.

That's on the way, he said, adding that he had passed the test and had just received a call from Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, who said Ramsey was the "the valedictorian" of the class.

"There is no valedictorian. I was joking about that," Noonan told me, "but he did very, very well. I gave him a call to kid him a little."

As you may know, cops can be ball-busters.

"I've been a policeman a long time and I guarantee you there ain't nothing in Pennsylvania or Philadelphia that's any more complicated than what I've done for the past 40-some-odd years," Ramsey told me, adding that Mayor Nutter gave him permission to wear the snazzy uniform with the four stars on the shoulder. Nice, but the mayor doesn't have authority to override state law, something Nutter sometimes forgets.

Ramsey still has to complete the firearms and CPR courses, which he expects to ace.

Noonan says Ramsey will receive temporary certification within weeks and full certification after June, assuming he passes CPR and firearms, which I think is a safe bet.

With certificate in hand, Ramsey will be able to make arrests as a police officer, which he currently is not permitted to do. He'll also righteously and officially wear the badge, uniform and gun.

And another strange Philadelphia saga will be put to bed.


Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns:

philly.com/Byko.

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