Ramsey: Police Must Be More Transparent About Shootings
Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is calling for a national standard for how police footage should be released in the aftermath of controversial shootings.
In an op-ed published by the New York Times on Saturday, Ramsey referenced the recent contentious police shootings of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 16th and 43-year-old Keith L. Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Ramsey happened to be teaching a workshop for police leaders when unrest and protests broke out over the shooting. Both Crutcher and Scott were African-American.
Ramsey, who served as Philly’s top cop under former Mayor Michael Nutter from 2008 to 2016, called for more transparency nationwide between police officers and communities — particularly low-income and minority communities.
In his op-ed, Ramsey compares how both police forces — Tulsa’s and Charlotte’s — chose to release footage of the shootings. Ramsey called the Tulsa Police Department “very transparent” in its decision to release footage of Crutcher’s shooting to the public. On the other hand, Ramsey said that though Charlotte police did release footage of Scott’s shooting after pressure from community members, activists and politicians, “the delay had already done damage.”
“We need to focus on developing a national standard for how information such as police videos is released, and how prosecutors, politicians and law enforcement work together in a consistent and fair way,” Ramsey wrote in the op-ed. “No one can be seen to be hiding information, or to try to cover up unflattering truth.”
Ramsey is credited with leading Philadelphia’s police force through eight years of a major decline in crime, but his legacy isn’t all positive. He’s taken flak for not publicly revealing footage relating to 24-year-old Brandon Tate-Brown, an African-American man was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in Philadelphia’s Mayfair section in December of 2014. Ramsey chose to show footage of the shooting to Tate-Brown’s family, as well as a group of selected activists and others.
Ramsey has since gone on to lead President Barack Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing and wrote that the position has led him to believe that police forces around the country need “to develop training that goes far beyond learning the criminal code, filling out an incident report or firing a gun.
“There are consequences to that difficult history that will take time to repair,” Ramsey wrote. “But this challenging moment is also a tremendous opportunity to make real improvements. I hope none of us squander it.”
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