As a youth, he once jumped out of bed in the middle of the night to help his father defend his home against an intruder. Now, Richard Ross will be the chief defender of the citizens of Philadelphia.
Ross was sworn in as the city’s 30th police commissioner Tuesday morning by no other than Mayor Jim Kenney, who took his own oath of office one day before. Ross replaces Charles Ramsey, who served for eight years under former Mayor Michael Nutter.
A God-fearing man, Ross, the oldest of three boys, grew up on 13th Street, about three blocks east of Central High School, his alma mater, where he was inaugurated Tuesday. He was asked by friends and colleagues, why he chose Central for the ceremony, when he could have been encompassed by the pomp and grandeur of City Hall.
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“About two months ago, the mayor-elect and I had a conversation and he said, ‘Look, if there is a place that is important to you, I am OK — it doesn’t have to be City Hall,’” Ross told a packed auditorium.
“Almost instantly, I said, 'Central.'"
Ross, 51, then he got down to business — talk of the future and what’s next in terms of tasks at hand.
“Look, it is a challenging time for law enforcement. I don’t think anyone can deny that, unless you really have your head in the sand,” he said.
“Being the fourth largest [police] department, we have some issues as well … These are complex issues with no easy fixes. We have to confront them. We have to be bold about them. And we have to understand that in order to be successful, these things need to happen.
“We need to be more responsive and more accountable to our neighborhoods, and we can’t be afraid of that. We can’t be afraid to show people who we are and why we do things. It’s so, so important. I do believe that from these challenges, like in [anything] in life, there is opportunity. We’re going to seize these opportunities and we’re going to make this department better than it already is.”
Before Ross placed his hand on the Bible, Kenney offered kind words.
“When I was nominated in May, I thought about this guy over here,” he said, indicating Ross.
“I made sure to ask him not to go anywhere, because I knew he was such a talented individual. We didn’t have to go outside of our department to find leadership. He instills in me — and instills in us — a steady, intelligent, quiet confidence, a decency and a dignity that I think is really required in a police department in the year 2016.”