Charles H. Ramsey

Inducted May 2010

Nominated by Jerry Ratcliffe, Temple University & Wesley Skogan, Northwestern University


Charles H. Ramsey was appointed Police Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department on January 7, 2008 by Mayor Michael Nutter and served until his retirement in 2016. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Commissioner Ramsey served in the Chicago Police Department for nearly three decades in a variety of assignments. He began his career in 1968, at the age of 18, as a Chicago Police cadet. He became a police officer in February 1971, and was promoted through the ranks, eventually serving as commander of patrol, detectives and narcotics units. In 1994, he was named Deputy Superintendent of the Bureau of Staff Services, where he managed the department’s education and training, research and development, labor affairs, crime prevention and professional counseling functions.

Prior to his appointment in Philadelphia, he served as the Chief of Police of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department from 1998 to 2006. Ramsey was the longest serving chief of the Metropolitan Police Department since DC Home Rule and the second longest-serving in the Department’s history. Under then Chief Ramsey’s leadership, the Department regained its reputation as a national leader in urban policing. Crime rates declined by approximately 40 percent during his tenure, community policing and traffic safety programs were expanded, and MPDC recruiting and hiring standards, training, equipment, facilities and fleet were all dramatic upgraded. He also oversaw and participated in numerous high profile investigations and events in Washington DC, such as: The 1998 murders of two United States Capitol Police officers inside the U.S. Capitol Building; The Y2K National Celebration in Washington, DC; The International Monetary Fund/World Bank Protests in April, 2000; The Chandra Levy Murder Investigation, The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, The 2001 Anthrax Attacks; The 2002 DC Sniper Investigation; The funeral of President Ronald W. Reagan and the 2001 and 2005 Presidential Inaugurations.

Commissioner Ramsey holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in criminal justice from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the National Executive Institute. After his retirement from the Washington DC Police Department, he served as a member of the Independent Commission on Security Forces of Iraq, led by now National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, and also led the group of law enforcement professionals that reviewed the Iraqi police forces which garnered international attention for their work. He completed the Executive Leadership Program at the Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security in February 2008.

Commissioner Ramsey has lectured nationally on community policing and is seen as an expert in the area of policing and homeland security. He currently serves as President of the Police Executive Research Forum, First Vice President of the Major Cities Chiefs, and is a member of the Executive Committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He now serves on the National Advisory Council for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), comprising experts in the field of emergency preparedness, management and response.

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Charles Ramsey has supported and facilitated evidence-based policing and experimental evaluations in law enforcement throughout his career. Most recently, as Police Commissioner in Philadelphia, Chief Ramsey developed and implemented an aggressive reduction in violent crime through targeted policing initiatives, as well as worked to improve organizational and policy infrastructures to support such initiatives. At the end of 2008, homicides had dropped 15% in 2008, shooting victims have decreased by 10%, and the homicide clearance rate is the highest in over a decade at 75%. The Philadelphia Police Department has already made significant strides in reducing crime and improving the quality of police services, with a renewed focus on mission-driven policing through enhanced organizational accountability, investigative and forensic technology upgrades, and criminal intelligence analysis.

He has encouraged and supported the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment (see citation below), and under his leadership, the Philadelphia Police Department has received funding as one of the ten pilot sites of the Smart Policing Initiative, a Bureau of Justice Assistance funded program. The Philadelphia project will compare problem-oriented policing, foot patrol, and offender targeted study areas, selected in a randomized controlled trial environment. This research will be undertaken during the summer of 2010 and is indicative of the ongoing commitment of Ramsey and the Philadelphia Police Department to documented rigorous scientific evaluation that is externally validated and published (in this case by a research team at Temple University led by Jerry Ratcliffe).

During his earlier career in Chicago, Ramsey was instrumental in designing and implementing the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, the city’s nationally acclaimed model of community policing that Wesley Skogan has written about at length (see citations below). Lessons were quickly learned from feedback of community meetings and research conducted by Skogan’s team, and these lessons were immediately implemented into the work of the Chicago Police Department. As co-manager of the CAPS project in Chicago, Commissioner Ramsey was one of the principal authors of the police department’s strategic vision. He also designed and implemented the CAPS operational model and helped to develop new training curricula and communications efforts to support implementation. Professor Skogan says Ramsey is a “hero” and a “legend” in his advocating for change in Chicago.

As head of the 4,400-member Metropolitan Police Department, Commissioner Ramsey worked to improve police services, enhance public confidence in the police, and bring down the District of Columbia’s crime rate. He also oversaw a multi-million dollar upgrade to district stations and other Department facilities, as well as new communications and information technology, including mobile data computing and the 3-1-1 non-emergency system. Expanded training programs for both police recruits and veteran members, including a unique diversity management course at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, are enhancing officer performance. In the area of community policing, Commissioner Ramsey redefined the Department’s mission to focus on crime prevention. Policing for Prevention, the Department’s community policing strategy, encompasses focused law enforcement, neighborhood-based partnerships and problem solving, and systemic prevention efforts. The strategy is supported not only by enhanced training for officers and supervisors, but also by a unique community training initiative called Partnerships for Problem Solving as well as a Senior Citizen Police Academy.

The result of these and other initiatives was a dramatic reduction in crime in the District of Columbia. In fact, serious crime in DC is at its lowest level since the current method of reporting statistics was first developed in the late 1960s. At the same time, opinion surveys indicate that public confidence in the MPDC rose under Commissioner Ramsey’s leadership.

A nationally recognized innovator, educator and practitioner of community policing, Commissioner Ramsey is known to refocus police departments on crime fighting and crime prevention through a more accountable organizational structure, new equipment and technology, an enhanced strategy of community policing and, since September 11, 2001, new approaches to homeland security and counter-terrorism.

Publications and Projects Reflecting Inductee's Efforts:

  • Ratcliffe, J., & Taniguchi, T. (2009). A preliminary evaluation of a footbeat intervention. Presented at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Skogan, W., & Hartnett, S. M. (1997). Community policing, Chicago style. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Skogan, W. (2006) Police and community in Chicago: A tale of three cities. New York: Oxford University Press.

Statement from Inductee:

Three Cities – Three Eras in Policing
Chicago: Turning Theory into Practice

I have been in policing for 42 years and have seen a lot of changes. I started out in the traditional model of policing; helped move the second largest department in the nation into community policing; refined the strategy in Washington, DC to combat crime and terrorism and made significant organizational change; and am currently supporting experimentally-designed studies to understand what works against violent crime. Underscoring all of these efforts is an appreciation for the value of research and scientific evidence in making good decisions for our profession.

I had heard the term “community policing” occasionally early in my career but I didn’t really understand it. I was slightly skeptical, and generally stereotyped it as being a soft strategy on crime where arrest was a bad word. It seemed contrary to my experience serving in a number of operational positions as I moved throughout the ranks. Twenty-one years would pass before I became Deputy Chief of Patrol, and I would understand what a community policing model could offer a big city like Chicago.

Shortly after I was assigned as the project manager of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, I was approached by Dr. Wesley Skogan of Northwestern University who was interested in evaluating what would become the largest community policing project in the nation. His team was present throughout the process of our developing the model, defining what community policing was and choosing the pilot areas. They had full access to all of our staff members, data and documents, and provided concrete recommendations. For ten years, they served in such an evaluative capacity.

This unique collaboration was an opportunity for all of us to learn whether or not community policing was a model that could lead policing into the future. It was the right time and the right place to learn what worked and what didn’t work. We turned theory into practice, and the results were striking. Community policing as it turned out was an effective crime fighting model. The relationship between Northwestern and the Chicago Police Department also demonstrated another valuable insight – that academic institutions and law enforcement organizations can work together in a mutually beneficial manner.

Together, we made an impact on the quality of life for residents in Chicago while simultaneously taking our profession to the next level. Skogan and his team have published numerous volumes about CAPS, and it has become a benchmark initiative in community policing.

I firmly believe that a key to the success of CAPS rested on an agreement that we had from day one of the project. Dr. Skogan would provide real-time assessments to the Department as the initiative was unfolding. We did not want to wait six months to a year to take corrective measures on a mistake that was made during the implementation process. Policing is too fast-paced. We had to be able to respond on a day-to-day basis to the problems that emerged. Fortunately, Dr. Skogan and his team were amenable to this proposal, and gave us feedback on a regular basis. We also understood that the researchers may have been resistant to sharing information that could compromise the integrity of their findings. This is a legitimate concern, and one which we respected and included in our discussions. There was transparency on both sides, and effective ongoing communication between us was essential to our collaboration.

Our experience in Chicago shifted my appreciation for the value of basing policing decisions on the findings of well-designed research. When I first came on the job in 1971, we didn’t have the resources, human or technological, to be able to analyze and measure performance outcomes. In-depth investigations into the causal factors of crime and violence weren’t exactly part of our mission; neither was tracking our progress through statistical or qualitative analysis. Our job was much more singularly focused on arresting offenders and moving on to the next case. CAPS took our crime-fighting approach to another level, one which influences my career to this day.

Washington, DC: Aligning the Organization with the Mission

When I arrived in the nation’s capital to serve as police chief in 1999, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had already made various attempts at community policing. We found, however, that neither their policing strategy nor their organizational structure supported a long-term effective model of policing. As a team, we would have to strengthen both in order to reduce and prevent crime.

Over time, we meshed the organizational structure with everything that we had learned from CAPS. We developed a three-pronged model for policing based on focused law enforcement, neighborhood partnerships and systemic prevention. We worked very diligently on matching form to function. Unlike Chicago, however, we did not form a long-standing partnership with an academic institution who evaluated our implementation efforts throughout the years. We made contacts with external researchers who worked on smaller projects for us, but we never achieved the same kind of long-term relationship with an academic partner.

I was fortunate enough to have had a team of professional staff employed with the MPD who were highly trained in research, statistics, social services and organizational dynamics. We also worked with a well-known organizational theorist whose ideas greatly aided us in redefining the roles and responsibilities of nearly every rank within the Department. With his framework, we brought a new level of accountability to our organizational structure that went beyond anything we had established in Chicago. Our work flow became much smoother, and we cut down on miscommunication internally and externally.

The work in DC was about raising our own organizational competence and level of accountability. We focused the entire agency on accomplishing our crime fighting mission. We accomplished this by incorporating validated best practices, both inside and outside of the field of policing, and applying them to our structure and environment. Lastly, we constantly assessed and modified our approach as we moved forward, and developed what was a well-rounded approach to policing.

Philadelphia: Institutionalizing an Evidence-Based Policing Strategy 

My experience in two other big cities led me to some modest but important conclusions around the use of research to inform strategic and tactical policing decisions. First and foremost, I had a clear and convincing proof that evidence-based policing worked. The conditions necessary, though, in order for a given approach to work vary based upon the numerous structural, organizational, and environmental factors specific to the location and the agency. In other words, cookie-cutter approaches to fighting crime based on previous successes aren’t necessarily the most effective tools in a different city. What worked in Chicago and the District may not apply in Philadelphia, though I was confident that some of the lessons learned in these two cities would be relevant.

One of the key lessons from both cities is having the right team in place to execute a successful policing strategy. I would be remiss if I didn’t take some time in discussing the importance of matching the right people to the right position. My own experience in policing prior to CAPS had been primarily operational. As project manager of CAPS, I met and worked with colleagues for the first time who had research, social science and policy backgrounds. Their perspective was absolutely invaluable, and I’m not solely referring to our partners at Northwestern. I was fortunate enough to have an internal team of professional staff who were equally as concerned and passionate about policing, but with a research-based orientation. Many of these talented staff members also came with me to Washington, DC and were an integral part of implementing our policing for prevention strategy there.

Now in my third big city, one person, a colleague and advisor, has continued to provide her research knowledge and counsel to me and my executive staff in the Philadelphia Police Department. I have known Nola Joyce since 1993 where she also served in a similar capacity. She brings a thoughtful and well-informed applied research perspective and academic background in policing. Her point of view is essential in counterbalancing our operational mindset in this Department. I cannot over emphasize the importance of building a team whose members complement each other in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. Nola constructively challenges my executive team here, and asks the right questions in search of the right solution for the presenting problem. She keeps abreast of the most current trends practices in criminology and criminal justice, and ensures that as a Department, we are carrying out a contemporary and effective research program. As an executive team for this police department, we are stronger and more well-balanced as a whole than as individuals.

The PPD’s previous engagements with researchers had been minimal. Though academics from local universities had worked with the PPD on various projects, there had not been a sustained effort to implement strategies and measure outcomes in collaboration with external researchers.

One academic who had been involved in smaller scale research projects with the Philadelphia Police Department for the past nine years was Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University. During the summer of 2008, Dr. Ratcliffe, at our request, evaluated the impact of a small foot patrol initiative on violent and property crime in the areas in which they were deployed. The results were mixed, but one of the recommendations borne out of this effort was to have the researchers participate not only in the evaluation period, but the planning and implementation of an experimentally-designed foot patrol program.

It was the beginning of what would become an integrated collaborative effort between researchers and our police commanders, that starts in the planning phase and runs through evaluation. Our executive leadership has come to embrace an evidence-based approach to improving our crime fighting strategy, and our rank and file officers are learning new ways to do their job.

We can no longer afford to treat crime and disorder through saturation patrols or massive amounts of overtime. We must learn exactly what the right dosage is to treat the chronic problem. That’s not to say that we should be responsible for treating crime and its root causes every day that we do our job. I am suggesting, though, that with a targeted and research-based approach, we can use our resources more effectively. Leveraging research is a key component to policing smarter in this economy. The more dimensions to a particular issue that we understand, the more we can work toward creating a safer community for us all.

I am continually impressed with the members of this Department, and the progress that we’ve made over the past two and half years. It is a testament to their work ethic and commitment to public service. As I reflect on our collective experience in three cities, I believe that we have figured out the right combination of factors for a successful and sustainable research program. First, we have been able to bring tested and validated research experience to bear on our policing strategy; second, we have a team comprising members who balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses; and finally, we have been able to maximize a researcher and practitioner partnership that is becoming part of how we do our business of crime fighting.

I challenge all of us to look for, develop, implement and test the next big idea in policing. Whether you are working as a researcher in a police agency or a think tank, a professor at a university, or a policy maker or a police practitioner interested in advancing the profession, balance your rigor with your passion, and find the next big idea that will make all of us safer. We can accept nothing less.


Nola M. Joyce, Chief Administrative Officer, Philadelphia Police Department:

I have worked with Charles H. Ramsey for almost twenty years, first in Chicago, then in the District of Columbia, and now in Philadelphia. I first worked with him on the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. I was fairly young and certainly a naive civilian research practitioner. Charles Ramsey was appointed as the Co-Project Director of CAPS and he immediately understood that the success of such a major change initiative rested on receiving valid, real-time assessments of the implementation efforts. Today he talks about the need to discover the right ‘dosage’ of police intervention and understanding what works and why. He encourages the Philadelphia Police Department to work with researchers to better test our long held beliefs. Today there are conversations between Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioners and Temple University researchers about how to implement a randomized, experimental designed study to test which methodology – problem solving, foot patrol, or offender focused approaches – is most effective in combating violent crime. He is promoting evidence-based policing by his actions and mentoring the next generation of police executives.

Dr. Camille Barnett, former Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia and former City Manager for Washington D.C.:

I have had the pleasure of working with Commissioner Ramsey during his tenure in both Washington, DC and Philadelphia. In both cases, he came in ready for a challenge – murder and shooting rates that were spiraling out of control. I have been astounded to see the success that he has achieved in reducing these terrifying figures in each city. In Washington, his impact was seen in the push toward community policing, increase in hiring standards, and the Regional Operations Command. In Philadelphia, his PPD2020 plan is in the process of bringing similar measures to his new home – and the results are already evident.

Commissioner Ramsey has led the way in Philadelphia’s transition to evidence-based government. His innovations in Police/Public Service Areas are modelling new ways of delivering police and other city services.

Commissioner Ramsey is a credit to the cities that have been fortunate enough to count him as one of their own. He is consistently at the forefront of modern policing techniques, and he produces tangible, measurable results. It is fitting that such an illustrious career be honored with induction to the Evidence-Based Policing Hall of Fame.