Commissioner Ramsey on Police and Community Tension: We Have to Establish Trust and Give Each Other a Chance

With tensions rising due to the shooting deaths of two NYPD officers as well as the ongoing protests for Mike Brown and Eric Garner, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has a clear message for everyone involved.

“Everyone needs to calm down,” Commissioner Ramsey said. “Things have gotten way out of hand. What we need is thoughtful discussion. Obviously there’s a need to change, a need to change by everyone.”

Ramsey, who was recently named the co-chair of President Obama’s task force on 21st Century policing, received a phone call from the President Sunday afternoon. During the call, Obama expressed his outrage over the shooting deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu and asked Ramsey to "explore meaningful ways to engage law enforcement officials from across the nation."

"The President reiterated his profound respect and gratitude for all law enforcement officers who serve and protect our communities, risking their own safety for ours everyday," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. "The President offered his assistance, and made clear Administration officials will continue to monitor the situation in New York, and support the important work of the Task Force."

Since the deaths of Brown and Garner as well as the decisions not to indict the officers involved in their deaths, Ramsey has witnessed the anger expressed towards police both nationwide as well as in Philadelphia. Ramsey told NBC10 he believes changes need to be made on both sides.

“Police certainly need to rethink strategies that are used, interactions with the community and things of that nature,” Ramsey said. “The community needs to take an inward look as well at some of the violence taking place. There are ways in which they can work with us to stop the violence that is occurring in the neighborhoods every single day.”

Ramsey commended protesters in Philadelphia for remaining peaceful.

“Here in Philadelphia it’s been good, it’s been peaceful,” he said. “I can only think of two arrests that have been made during the entire time that we’ve had protests. Aside from that there haven’t been any incidents. A lot of loud yelling and screaming. But we can handle that.”

Ramsey also expressed his condolences for the families of Officer Ramos and Officer Liu, who were shot and killed during an ambush attack in Brooklyn Saturday.

“I’ve spoken with [[NYPD]] Commissioner Bratton three times since that’s happened,” Ramsey said. “They’re doing the best they can. It’s a tough period of time. We’ve had this happen before in Philadelphia.”

Ramsey, who called Bratton “one of the best police leaders in the country,” is confident the NYPD will be able to endure.

“He will guide his department through it, no doubt,” Ramsey said.

The shooter, identified by police as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, took his own life after killing the officers, according to investigators. Investigators believe Brinsley, who also allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore prior to the Brooklyn shooting, posted a threatening message on a social media account before the incident, according to one law enforcement source. "They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs," said the post on Instagram, which was accompanied by a photo of a silver handgun.

"I'm putting wings on pigs today," the post added.

Ramsey told NBC10 he believed that some criticisms claiming anti-police rhetoric during demonstrations for Eric Garner and Mike Brown played a role in the officers’ deaths were “fair.” He specifically referred to some protesters who reportedly chanted, “What do we want? Dead police! When do we want it? Now!”

“I think that can incite,” Ramsey said. “We have a lot of violent people unfortunately, in our society and it doesn’t take much to trigger something. I’m not saying that happened here but clearly from the writings on his Instagram, the deaths of Garner and Brown were certainly part of it as well as other things. I think everyone just needs to be careful with what they say and choose their words carefully.”

Ramsey has had several meetings with community leaders in Philadelphia. He also spoke on members of Philadelphia’s African American community who had distrust towards law enforcement.

“We encourage more African Americans to get involved in law enforcement,” Ramsey said. “If you really are interested in change then you change from within. It’s a lot easier than trying to change from the outside.”

Ramsey also spoke about his own son, a 28-year-old African American man who recently became a police officer.

“I want him to be able to protect himself when he’s out there,” Ramsey said. “At the same time, don’t get an attitude that everyone’s against you because they aren’t. Be vigilant but have a measured response to everything that you do.”

Finally, Ramsey repeated the theme of trust in regards to finding a solution for the disconnect between the community and the police.

“At some point in time we’ve got to give one another a chance,” Ramsey said. “Police have to trust the community and the community has to trust the police. Everyone wants safety and security. But the only way to achieve it is by having everyone working together.”

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