Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday defended the $350-an-hour fee he has agreed to pay Charles Ramsey to help guide the Chicago Police Department through a federal civil rights investigation and ruled out Ramsey becoming Chicago’s next police superintendent.
“Ramsey’s been clear that, after D.C. and Philly, he doesn’t want the job. You don’t ask somebody who doesn’t want the job. This is too big and important a job. So he’s clear. And we have a committee searching for the right person,” the mayor said.
A former deputy police superintendent credited with pioneering Chicago’s community policing program, Ramsey is the newly retired Philadelphia police chief who was Emanuel’s first choice for the job that ultimately went to now-fired Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
Ramsey is not one of the 39 candidates who applied for the $260,044-a-year superintendent’s job. He told the Chicago Sun-Times early on that he was not interested in the job but would serve as a police consultant.
But that does not preclude Emanuel from using his legendary powers of persuasion to try and change Ramsey’s mind.
Ramsey’s decision to advise the Chicago Police Department through the federal civil rights investigation triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald has fueled speculation that the former Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia police chief could become a modern-day version of O.W. Wilson.
A University of California at Berkeley criminologist, Wilson was hired by former Mayor Richard J. Daley to oversee police reforms triggered by the cops-as-robbers scandal in the Summerdale police district.
Wilson ultimately became Chicago’s civilian police superintendent.
On Monday, Emanuel flatly denied that history would repeat itself with Ramsey.
When asked whether hiring Ramsey to replace McCarthy might be a better value for Chicago taxpayers than a consulting contract with the meter running at $350 an hour, the mayor defended the arrangement as worth every penny.
“One way of measuring is on the dollars. … That’s not one that I’m lax about. But if we come out of this process with the best police department, the best community relations, you’re going to have lower crime rates. And that’s not just a dollars-and-cents thing. That goes to the safety and security” of Chicago neighborhoods,” the mayor said.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge that will not only help us save lives and help improve community relations. But also we’ll make sure that, while we’re starting this process with the Justice Department, we don’t waste any time and we hit the ground running.”
After announcing a homebuyer’s assistance program in Chatham, Emanuel was asked why he chose Ramsey to advise the Chicago Police Department when Philadelphia has a higher homicide rate.
“Chuck Ramsey is a national leader on policing and community policing, which is essential for any effort in bringing crime down and … building trust between the community and the police department,” the mayor said.
“Second, he’s from Chicago. And that gives him credibility with the community and within the police department, where you’re going to drive … essential change. And third, he has led the effort in the D.C. police department and in Philadelphia. So that will also be an intellectual resource that we, as a city, can draw upon as we make these changes. Leadership in community policing. Leadership in Chicago. And leadership in the D.C. and Philadelphia police departments that were making these type of changes when they worked with the Justice Department. All of those go to our benefit.”
The mayor denied that Ramsey would be a “shadow superintendent.” He said the retired Philadelphia police chief would report to interim Police Supt. John Escalante, who has applied for the permanent job but stands little chance of getting it.
City Hall sources said Emanuel will almost certainly replace McCarthy with an African-American to restore public trust between residents and police in the black community shattered by the video played around the world of a white police officer firing 16 shots into the body of a black teenager.
Ramsey has been through the ordeal of a federal civil rights investigation twice before.
After losing the superintendent’s job to Terry Hillard, Ramsey left Chicago in 1998 to head Washington’s police department. That year, The Washington Post ran a series of critical stories on police officers using deadly force.
Ramsey contacted then-Attorney General Janet Reno and invited the Justice Department to review his department. Washington entered a seven-year agreement with the feds, which he said resulted in stronger firearms training and other changes.
“Firearms training prior to my arrival was mandatory but not enforced,” Ramsey said. “We had officers going two to three years without training. Tactics were poor when you dissected those cases. Judgment was questionable. We required people to go through training twice a year, myself included — not just target practice, but reality-based training to improve judgment.”
The number of police-involved shootings in Washington dropped 85 percent and have remained at about the same level, Ramsey said.
In 2013, in response to a spike in police-involved shootings in Philadelphia, where he was the police commissioner, Ramsey again invited the Justice Department to review police training and policies.
The 18-month investigation resulted in 91 recommendations that were released in March and about 40 percent of them have been carried out, Ramsey said. Police-involved shootings have since fallen in that city, he said.
Ramsey was co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He said Chicago could adopt many of the recommendations that panel released in May to “improve relationships with the community.”
He also said he thinks the Justice Department investigation of the Chicago Police will produce positive results.
“Parts of it will be painful, but you will come out of it stronger,” he said.
After defending McCarthy for months, Emanuel abruptly fired his only police superintendent on Dec. 1, saying the larger-than-life McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor over the city’s decision to withhold dashcam video of the police shooting of McDonald for 13 months and wait until one week after the April 7 mayoral runoff to authorize a $5 million settlement with the McDonald family before a lawsuit had even been filed.
McCarthy was sent packing with just one month of salary. The $21,670 in exit pay given to McCarthy paled by comparison to the $291,662 golden parachute offered to former Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.