Philly Gets New Top Cop in Central High Alum Richard Ross
Richard Ross, the new Philadelphia Police commissioner, had several messages for his fellow Central High School students and the larger community at his swearing-in ceremony at his alma mater this morning, but the most important message he delivered was: We’re all in this together, and we all have a role we can play in keeping the city safe.
Ross used an anecdote from his own childhood to drive home this point. He grew up on North 13th Street in Logan, not far from Central High, and late one night when he was about 9 years old, one of his neighbors, an older woman, woke him and his family up to warn them that someone had broken into their house.
“This woman put herself into harm’s way in order to notify us,” he said, but what impressed him more was the response she got.
“My father and I went outside, in our robes and pajamas, and we were quickly able to discern that whoever had broken in was no longer there. There were seven or eight other fathers, all dressed alike; they had on their robes and pajamas, and I noticed they all had their right hand in their robe pocket. Those men patrolled that block for hours afterward.
“They didn’t look out the window and say, ‘I wonder what’s happening at the Ross house?’ Their patrolling, though ad hoc, sent a message to whoever it was who did this. I can say with some certainty that nobody broke into a house on 13th Street for some time after that.
“It speaks volumes about what you can do when you work together.”
Ross went on to add that he sees no reason why something like this can’t happen today: “There’s no reason in the world, irrespective of what neighborhood we come from, that we can’t work together.”
Ross stressed that he would not be able to do his job without the support of the community and the city’s elected leaders, mentioning Mayor James F. Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke and District Attorney Seth Williams specifically.
Before he administered the oath of office to Ross, Kenney noted the importance of good relations between the police and the community as well. “The police department is the most important department in the government,” he said. “It sets the tone for how the community sees the government. Right now, we’re going through a period of tremendous upheaval in our police departments and their relations with the community.”
Kenney said that he chose Ross to succeed Charles H. Ramsey because of his “steady, quiet confidence” that displays “the decency needed to serve the community.”
In keeping with a key theme of his administration, Kenney also offered praise for the Central High School student body and its diversity, calling the racially and socioeconomically mixed community “what the city looks like and what it should look like.” After remarking that “not everybody is lucky enough to attend Central,” he also called attention to the crimson and gold necktie he was wearing, a gift to the St. Joseph’s Prep alumnus from the school when he visited as a City Council member several years ago.
Central High School Principal Timothy McKenna introduced the commissioner by noting the many posts he has held in his 25 years with the department, many of them involving police-community relations. “He is a lifelong learner who has a passion about making our community better for its citizens,” he said.
For the school’s 275th graduating class (the Class of 2016 to the rest of the world), Ross, a member of the school’s 241st graduating class, had this advice: “Go after your dreams. Make sure your actions match your aspirations.”
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