When a politician claims to improve an oppressive condition, there is usually an unspoken catch.
This week, President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to deal with police brutality and militarization (which he helped to enable over the course of his presidency). He has ordered $263 million for 50,000 body cameras and called for restrictions and oversight on military equipment.
One of the most disingenuous elements of Obama’s master plan is his appointment of Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Charles Ramsey, to chair the “Task Force on 21st Century Policing.” Ramsey is co-chairing the task force with Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general and professor at George Mason University. The force is allegedly responsible for restoring trust and good relations between police officers and communities. A White House press release claimed that,
Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country have highlighted the importance of strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect. As the nation has observed, trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services.
While body cameras and restrictions on military equipment are easy to spin as positive (though the practice of militarization will not be stopped, only “curbed”), it is not as easy to fake credibility for Ramsey. The officer, who is also the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, runs one of the most corrupt police departments in the nation.
He was once the police chief of Washington, D.C. and has presided over Philadelphia’s department since 2008. Ramsey worked for the Chicago police department for thirty years and is currently a member of the “United States Homeland Security Advisory Council.”
On his watch, a federal investigation into corruption was launched over conspiracy, robbery, extortion, kidnapping and drug dealing. The Philadelphia police were caught ignoring thousands of rape cases to keep their crime numbers low. Before marijuana was decriminalized, Philly police arrested African-Americans for marijuana at an even higher rate than the rest of the country (which is already grossly high). Even after a decriminalization bill was passed this June, Ramsey vowed to continue arrests pursuant to Pennsylvania law. Other cops stole half a million dollars of drug money from suspects.
Philadelphia police are also no strangers to harassment and murder on the job, which is what Obama allegedly seeks to diminish in appointing Ramsey. Ramsey’s cops threaten to beat teenagers. They actually beat all kinds of people over and over and over. They also indulge in shootings, which occur all too often and shirk accountability.
Most telling, during the initial waves of protest in Ferguson this summer, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar sought frequent advice from Ramsey on how to handle the situation.
Wilson’s murder of unarmed Michael Brown and police reactions to protests and the lack of grand jury indictment are what sparked the president’s “task force” to begin with. Somehow, however, it is lost on Obama that restoring faith in cops cannot come from putting a corrupt cop in charge let alone a corrupt cop who advised St. Louis County police on their cruel, aggressive tactics.
Obama’s appointment demonstrates that his plan is nothing more than a sham to appease an increasingly discontent and angry populace without effecting actual change.
The task force has 90 days to prepare a report and recommendations for the “21st century” problems of policing. But if Charles H. Ramsey cannot curb corruption and excessive violence within his own department, it is unlikely he will inspire change at the national level.