Charles H. Ramsey

With his expansive experience and expertise, alumnus and Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department Charles H. Ramsey ’90, MS ’91, was recently selected by President Barack Obama to co-chair the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Task Force is charged with seeking ways to strengthen police and community relations nationally, and their fi rst report to the President was submitted on March 2, 2015.

“I think this is going to lead to significant changes in policing,” explains Commissioner Ramsey. “Obviously, there are issues we need to confront within our communities; a mistrust that does exist that is very real. We have to find a way to be able to change some of our practices in a way in which we relate to community, and also the transparency that’s needed so people have faith in the system once again. I think that the report that we put together and submitted to President Obama serves as a framework for any department to move in that direction. There are some solid recommendations there that if a department or other agency chose to follow, would lead toward improved relationships. I think that’s important because without the public we cannot be effective in our job.”

Commissioner Ramsey has spent 47 years in the field of law enforcement and earned numerous awards for his work. Currently, he leads the fourth largest police department in the nation in Philadelphia, a capacity in which he has served for seven years. Commissioner Ramsey previously served as Washington, D.C. Police Chief for nine years, after a 30-year career in various ranks within the Chicago Police Department (CPD). He has spent a great deal of time building relationships between law enforcement and the community. In fact, he was the first project manager for the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, a model of community policing that he was key in designing and implementing within the Department.

Watch Commissioner Ramsey deliver his commencement speech at Lewis University below:

"When I came to Washington, D.C., I implemented another community policing strategy there called Policing for Prevention. Now, I’ve taken all I learned from Chicago and D.C. and implemented a community policing strategy in Philadelphia. We have 21 police districts and each is subdivided into police service areas. Each of these 64 areas across the city is headed by a lieutenant with sergeants and officers that get to know the community, all of the issues, people causing harm, and people who are willing to work with them. They have monthly meetings where they have to create action plans to deal with some of the chronic problems they are confronted with. They form the kinds of partnerships that we really need to be successful. Community-oriented policing is really the foundation of our policing strategy in Philly.”

Ramsey, who was inspired both personally and professionally during his time at Lewis by the Chair of the Criminal Justice Department, Dr. Russell Levy, says one of the goals of this strategy is to strive for peace within communities.

“We work to achieve safety and security in all of our neighborhoods by trying to reduce crime in partnership with our community – both residential and business. I think you always have to strive towards finding peace, and that needs to start early. Students can make a difference by getting involved and not being bystanders; by recognizing that it may not have occurred in their neighborhood today, but tomorrow that might not be the case. We have a sense of responsibility in ridding all communities of crime and disorder. Maybe it’s through law enforcement, becoming an activist, through your church or school, mentoring, or taking part in community service. There are many ways to get involved.”

Ramsey is involved himself in many different initiatives. He currently serves as President of the Police Executive Research Forum and is on the Executive Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Asked what keeps him pushing forward in a law enforcement career that sees both the best and worst of the world, Ramsey stated, “I know that we are making a difference. This is my 47th year in law enforcement. It’s not perfect; nothing is. But I can see where progress is being made. I can see it in terms of not just the amount of crime taking place in these communities but also between the police and community relationship. Unfortunately, I had an officer killed in the line of duty last Thursday. Last night, I attended a rally that the community put on and there were hundreds of people out there to show their support of the men and women in our Department. It gives us the incentive to continue on, push forward, and try to make a difference. We may never achieve universal peace, but we can strive for it and make progress toward achieving that goal.”

Lewis University presented an Honorary Doctorate degree to Commissioner Ramsey on Saturday, May 16.


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