Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the man chosen to co-lead President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, has been sued more than once over questionable police practices. The Washington Post notes that when Ramsey led D.C. police in the early 2000s, officers inappropriately swept up protesters and bystanders en masse. His actions have cost the city more than $20 million in settlements. Some civil liberties advocates say that makes Ramsey's selection a curious one. “I find it completely laughable,” Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “There is simply no way that he is capable of creating any real reform.”
Ramsey, 64, said he has learned from past mistakes, and he stands ready to apply those lessons to make sure his task force brings about “substantive change.” “I'm not the same person today that I was 12 years ago,” he said. “You do grow, and you do develop a deeper understanding of making sure things are done properly.” Police experts said his selection to co-chair the task force with George Mason University professor Laurie Robinson, a former high-ranking Justice Department official, will give credibility to the group. “He would be my pick,” said David Mitchell, the University of Maryland police chief who has also led other law enforcement agencies. Ramsey and Robinson acknowledged that the group is limited in what it can do. The federal government, they said, cannot simply order ground-level changes at the nation’s 18,000 police departments.