Philly’s Murder Rate Is Up, but Nutter and Ramsey Are Playing With Stats

Does anyone care to question the police commissioner's $60,000 raise now?

Murders are up, but the Philadelphia Police Department’s website states they are down—because they’re comparing this year’s killings to those from 2007. If the CEO of a Wall Street firm announced that revenues were up 22 percent, he would be lauded for his leadership and undoubtedly receive a hefty raise. By contrast, if it was revealed that the CEO was playing games with the books and basing his figures not on a year-to-date comparison from the prior year, but from four years ago, he would probably be shown the door. The argument can be made that Commissioner Ramsey, the city’s highest-paid employee, is deliberately misleading the public on the city’s murder rate.

A visit to the crime stats website verifies what we already know: Shootings, violence and murder are out of control throughout the city. As of this writing, there have been 259 murders since January 1st, as one can plainly see from the highlighted 2011 figure on the webpage. Beside that is a number with a down arrow. Currently, it’s 18 percent, but last week it stood at 22. It purports to represent the percentage that murders have decreased.

And therein lies the problem. A big one.

Murders aren’t down 18 or 22 percent. As a matter of fact, they’re up. Comparing year-to-date statistics, 2011 has 10 more murders on the books than last year, a whopping 24 more than in 2009 (a 10 percent jump), and eight more than in 2008.

But Chief Ramsey has decided to hide these numbers and instead compare today’s murder rate with that of 2007, the high-water mark for killings. That’s like the Phillies claiming a playoff victory because they beat the Cardinals half a decade ago.

It’s interesting to note that Ramsey was hired at the end of 2007, which perhaps explains why he is using that blood-soaked year as his benchmark—all the easier to pass the buck and make himself look better.

Maybe the Chief, and Mayor Nutter, who hired him and remains his boss, missed their callings. They seem better suited for Wall Street firms that rely on misleading investors (in this case, the citizens) for their own personal gain (re-election, job security and bloated pensions).

So residents get the screws two ways: They walk away with a false sense of security, mistakenly believing that murders are down. And when they realize the truth—that their leaders are deliberately misleading them—they feel betrayed. Unlike the Wall Street CEO, Nutter and Ramsey get away scot-free. And like some robber-baron execs, they each make a pile of money, courtesy of a duped public, with little accountability and oversight.

In fact, Chief Ramsey is rolling in it, to the tune of $255,000 a year.

You may recall that earlier this year, the Commissioner was actively courted for the top police job in his hometown of Chicago. Despite pleas that he stay, it was almost a done deal, but for one small sticking point: his $400,000 per year total compensation asking price, according to press reports. You know it’s greedy when even a liberal Democrat like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel balks at such an obscene amount, which, by the way, is the salary of the President of the United States.

Ramsey’s reason for ultimately staying in Philadelphia? “…the support I got here at home from the business community—and the media, even—and, of course, Mayor Nutter, made the difference.”

Well, that, and the $60,000 pay raise he was promised from the Mayor as a reward for not leaving the city, courtesy of the taxpayers. That increase makes the Commissioner the highest—repeat, highest—paid city employee. Even more than the Mayor himself.

Ramsey was right about one thing. He did get quite a bit of support, from city councilmen to the gushing, sycophant media. Notably, neither entity bothered asking the right questions before, or after, the lavish pay hike was doled out to the Chief.

Questions such as:

1) How can the city afford to shell out a $60,000/year salary increase to anyone when it can’t even pay its current bills, has an insolvent pension, and continues to see its tax base—what’s left of it—flee? In fact, it was just reported that there is yet another tax revenue shortfall, adding to the budget deficit. What a surprise.

And for the record, there are plenty of qualified people who would have gladly accepted the Commissioner’s previous salary of $195,000 had he chosen to leave.

2) When will Philadelphia realize that paying exorbitant salaries to government officials is not just financially foolhardy, but doesn’t guarantee results? Just look at Arlene Ackerman, the now former school superintendent who made $325,000 a year (with incentives allowing for a half-million dollar payday) to preside over an ever-worsening school district. For the privilege of leaving her post, she banked $905,000, all footed by the public.

And don’t forget scandal-plagued former Housing Authority chief Carl Greene, who, with his bonus, was making $350,000. In addition, residents are still paying sky-high legal bills related to the mess he left behind.

3) Was any quantitative, or better yet, common sense analysis done to see if Ramsey merited such a large salary bump? Murders are increasing, out-of-control flash mobs have led to curfews, police corruption is rampant, and there is growing fear on the streets, leading many suburbanites to stay away.

According to the Chief’s 2008 “Crime Fighting Strategy,” the big goal that year was to “reduce homicides by 25 percent,” yet the department was way short, overseeing only a 15 percent drop from 2007 to 2008. And what of the stated overall plan of reducing homicides by 30 to 50 percent, as outlined in a public letter from Ramsey to Nutter? Not even in the ballpark. As noted above, homicides have been rising, not falling.

While certainly not all these things can be attributable to the Chief, the buck stops with him. He is responsible. Just like a CEO often receives no bonus when numbers are down, a police commissioner should have pay raises tied to performance. But since the Mayor deals in Other People’s Money, that isn’t the case.

*****

Is the city is safer? You can play with statistics to bolster any desired conclusion. Yet ask those in Philadelphia whether they truly feel secure, and most would simply laugh. And that’s the only statistic that matters.

Is the Chief doing a good job? In some respects, yes. But so stellar that he commands a raise three times more than the city’s per capita income? Not even close. The fact that the city can’t afford the money is just salt in the wound.

OK, fine. Ramsey got his money. It is what it is, and he isn’t relinquishing it. But that bolsters the point all the more.

The leader of the police department should epitomize transparency and honesty.

Instead, in what can only be assumed to be a deliberate attempt to deceive Philadelphians, games are being played with the city’s increasing murder rate. And there is no excuse for that. None.

The culture of any organization is established by the conduct of its top leaders. In the Philadelphia Police Department’s case, its culture of honor, values and integrity has taken a hit. And when the the guys on the street chasing down the murderers see their top brass skirting the truth for political gain, perhaps they too cut a corner where they shouldn’t be. They take on the persona of their leadership.

It’s time for the Mayor and Chief to do the right thing by telling the truth, no matter how difficult that may be. Let’s see more honesty in the most trusted institution in Philadelphia—its police department.

Only when the city’s leaders regain the trust of the people will Philadelphia begin its journey back to respectability.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all 50 states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller Catastrophe. Freind also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]