Philadelphia continued to be well-represented on stage at the Democratic National Convention, with former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey speaking for several minutes Wednesday night in the middle of a string of remarks that focused on gun violence.
He referred back to his eight years in Philly, when the city experienced the line-of-duty deaths of eight police officers. “After the attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, an entire nation mourned eight more,” he said. “After 47 years in law enforcement, in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, I’ve mourned far too many officers killed by guns. And as a nation, we mourn far too many innocent people that have fallen victim to gun violence. I’m here to say we need more than grieving to protect our law enforcement officers, and to serve the memory of those heroes that have fallen. We need common sense measures to reduce gun violence.”
Ramsey recalled growing up in the rough-and-tumble Englewood section of Chicago, where his brother’s best friend was murdered about 50 feet from the Ramseys’ front door; a Chicago cop was shot to death by gang members at that same spot several years later.
“During my years in policing, I’ve seen the grieving families, including the families of police officers. I’ve seen the cost of gun violence,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we need a strong, steady leader to stop the bloodshed, a leader that’ll protect our law officers from being outgunned by weapons of war, and to rebuild the bonds between police and communities. And that’s why I’m with Hillary Clinton.”
Ramsey was appointed the head of Washington, D.C.’s police force in 1998, when Bill Clinton was still president. He was there for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and said Clinton stood with first responders in the wake of the attacks.
He touched on the ongoing strain between the law enforcement world and black communities across the country. As the commissioner in Philadelphia, he experienced it up close, as protests erupted over the controversial fatal police shooting in 2014 of Brandon Tate-Brown.
“The bonds between law enforcement and community are frayed, but we can’t play to America’s worst fears,” Ramsey told convention attendees inside the Wells Fargo Center. Clinton, he said, would build bridges between police and minority communities. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s better than building walls.”
Ramsey also gave North Philly a shoutout — as an example of a downtrodden neighborhood that wouldn’t be forgotten by Clinton.
He was preceded and followed by a who’s-who of recent American gun violence catastrophes: Christine Leinonen, whose son, Christopher, was among the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting attack last month in Orlando; Erica Smegielski, whose mother, Dawn, was a principal killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut; Felicia Sanders and Polly Sheppard, two survivors of the 2015 Mother Emanuel Church shooting in South Carolina; and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was left permanently disabled by a 2011 ambush in Arizona that left six people dead, including the granddaughter of former Phillies manager Dallas Green.
Follow @dgambacorta on Twitter.