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September 26, 2016

Former Commissioner Ramsey: America in 'most challenging period'

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey reflected on the aftermath of the recent deadly police shootings in the United States, calling this the "most challenging period" he has ever witnessed, in a New York Times piece published Friday.

In the op-ed, titled, "Where to Go From the Anger in Charlotte," Ramsey tackled the issue of officer-involved shootings and the release of police videos.

Ramsey attempted to strike a balance between the public's right to know and the police's duty to enforce laws. He stressed a need for a clearly defined process for such incidents after cases in Tulsa and Charlotte were handled differently, leading to frustration and anger.

"We need to focus on developing a national standard for how information such as police videos is released, and how prosecutors, politicians and law enforcement work together in a consistent and fair way," he wrote. "No one can be seen to be hiding information, or to try to cover up unflattering truth."

Ramsey has not shied away from voicing his opinion on the tenuous relationship between the police and minorities. During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in July, Ramsey warned that America was "sitting on a powder keg."

In 2014, he was chosen by President Barack Obama to lead the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to identify potential solutions.

"One answer I keep returning to is a greater commitment to partnering with community groups," he wrote. "The police must not be seen by residents as quasi-military occupiers, but rather as allies and partners."

That approach is one that Ramsey used while serving as Philly's top cop for eight years under Mayor Michael Nutter.

"I sent recruits fresh from the police academy into the most challenging neighborhoods on foot patrol for six months to a year," he wrote. "They learned how to talk to people, something you’re never going to get driving down the street at 40 miles per hour in a police cruiser. I wanted the young officers and the neighborhood folks to actually 'see' one another. At the end of the day, officers and citizens who interact on the streets should both be able to go home safe."

Ramsey acknowledged that officers have to overcome a checkered past when "they were enforcing unjust laws of a different era." However, he expressed hope that progress can be realized.

"There are consequences to that difficult history that will take time to repair. But this challenging moment is also a tremendous opportunity to make real improvements. I hope none of us squander it," Ramsey concluded.