Philly’s top cop believes law enforcement officers nationwide need sweeping attitude-related changes to improve police-community relations.
“It may takes generations until some of this stuff is in place,” Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who was tapped by President Obama in December to chair the 21st Century Policing Task Force, said at a press conference on their findings Tuesday.
“We need to get away from ‘us versus them,’” Ramsey said. “Even in our most challenged neighborhoods, everybodys not involved in criminal activity. Everybody’s not doing something wrong. So who is the ‘them’?”
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But meanwhile, local policing tactics under Ramsey are still under a cloud regarding use-of-force issues.
The first Department of Justice (DOJ) report on police-involved shootings in Philly is due out Friday. Ramsey asked the DOJ to review the department in 2012 after statistics showed an increase in officer-involved shootings.
The Dec. 15 police shooting of Brandon Tate-Brown, 26, who is alleged to have been running for a gun after a traffic stop when officers shot him, has become controversial with activists and Tate-Brown’s family accusing the department of lying and falsifying evidence.
Brian Mildenberg, attorney for Tate-Brown’s family, said this week regarding evidence that “The police story has changed so many times that … we now believe that Brandon was pulled over for no good reason at all.”
Police have defended their handling of the shooting. The officer who pulled the trigger was cleared of departmental violations but is still being investigated by the D.A.’s office.
Ramsey did not address the Tate-Brown case Tuesday but acknowledged some of the public do not trust police.
“When there’s this general feeling of mistrust of police right now … even the most ridiculous misstatements have some credibility right now,” Ramsey said — specifically in response to recent reports that Chicago police have a secret “black site” for detention of prisoners.
Ramsey, the former Chicago police commissioner, said those reports are false.
In the 21st Century policing preliminary report released March 2, one key recommendation invokes instilling in police officers a “guardian mentality,” which Ramsey said is about “getting away from the adversarial relationship.”
The goal is that police officers “see themselves and their roles in society as defenders of constitutional rights in society,” Ramsey said.
“For years we’ve talked about fighting crime. The war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on this, the war on that,” he said. “But we’re not fighting the people we serve … That’s the guardian mentality.”
The task force’s 115-page preliminary report, released March 2, does not include specific recommendations regarding the use of body cameras by police.
Ramsey said that was because “technology advances very very quickly. it advances faster than the law and policy can keep pace with.”
Officers in the 22nd District are currently piloting several models of body camera.
But Ramsey said that the task force found that other technology in development, including body cameras with facial recognition technology, and drones for use by police, will also need to be evaluated before specific technology-related recommendations can be made.
“No one in that room was not in favor of using body cameras,” Ramsey said. “But technology advances very very quickly, faster than the law and policy can keep pace with. … Just talking about body cameras would make the report obsolete in a year.”
Visit usdoj.cops.gov to read the full report.