At a public meeting last week, new Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey listened in stony silence as a parade of supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted killer of Officer Daniel Faulkner, denounced the police department for alleged brutality, repression, and disrespect. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that he broke his silence after a white woman complained police behavior was designed to drive minorities out of gentrifying neighborhoods. Ramsey, an African American, suggested to the woman that if she “truly cared about black people” she would cease the rhetoric and “offer some positive suggestions.”
The dustup demonstrated that relations between police and the community are fragile and that improving them will be one of his biggest challenges. Ramsey wants to put more of the department’s 6,600 officers on patrol to increase visibility, and he wants more emphasis on community policing to improve civilian cooperation with the police. At the community meetings, the demands for better services were many – more police on foot patrols, more streetlights, more traffic enforcement. Ramsey will consider restarting a mounted unit disbanded by the last mayor, John Street. He declared his support for more surveillance cameras on the streets.