Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey

2023 Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy Leading Change in Policing Honoree

Commissioner Ramsey’s commitment to fighting crime and safeguarding people’s lives and their constitutional rights is partnered with a commitment to provide officers with the tools they need to develop professionally and remain safe while protecting the communities they serve.

For more than 35 years, Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has been an iconic innovator in the field of policing since the start of his decorated career. He remained at the forefront of developing innovative policing strategies, leading organizational change, and advancing the law enforcement profession across three major city police departments, beginning with Chicago, then Washington D.C., and finally, Philadelphia. Throughout his tenure in law enforcement, Commissioner Ramsey has supported and facilitated evidence-based policing and experimental evaluations, resulting in positive change within the communities he served.

Commissioner Ramsey established a firm commitment to fighting crime and safeguarding people’s lives, all while committing to providing officers with the tools they need to develop professionally and remain safe while protecting their community.

At the beginning of his career in 1968, Commissioner Ramsey, a Chicago native, began his policing profession as a Chicago Police Department cadet. In 1971, he became an officer with the department, and eventually worked his way up the ranks, serving as the Commander of patrol, investigations, and narcotics. He was later named the Deputy Superintendent of the Bureau of Staff Services in 1994. In this role, Commissioner Ramsey led the department’s education and training, research and development, labor affairs, crime prevention, and professional counseling functions.

Commissioner Ramsey also played an instrumental role in the design and implementation of a nationally acclaimed model of community policing adopted by the Chicago Police Department. This initiative, dubbed the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), created a collaborative effort between law enforcement, the community, and city government to reduce crime in the city. His role in the project allowed him to further establish the department’s strategic vision and develop the appropriate training and communication needed for CAPS to be successful.

Commissioner Ramsey is also known for his innate ability to refocus police departments when it comes to crime fighting and crime prevention. From 1998 to 2006, Commissioner Ramsey served as chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia where he created an accountable organizational structure, brought in new equipment and technology, and enhanced strategies around community policing. In 1999, Commissioner Ramsey took a bold and courageous step when he requested that the U.S. Department of Justice initiate an independent investigation into the Department over its use of force. US Attorney General John Ashcroft called this decision “an unprecedented act of outreach.”

Commissioner Ramsey also spearheaded new approaches to homeland security and counterterrorism following the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001. He also participated in numerous high-profile investigations and events in Washington D.C., including the 2001 anthrax attacks, the 2002 Beltway Sniper investigation, and the 2001 and 2005 presidential inaugurations.

In January 2008, Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia, appointed Commissioner Ramsey as the Police Commissioner for the city. Commissioner Ramsey retired eight years later in 2016 after successfully leading the fourth-largest police department in the nation with more than 6,600 sworn members and 830 civilian members.

Commissioner Ramsey is one of only a handful of bold law enforcement leaders who are courageous enough to publicly acknowledge the need for change and improvement in policing while also demanding respect for the profession and those who so admirably serve, just as he did throughout his career."

Jim Burch, President, National Policing Institute

While serving as Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Ramsey played a vital role in the department’s significant progress in reducing violent crime in the city. Leaning into his vast experience and specialized talents, he focused on evidence-based policing, organizational accountability, and community policing strategies to achieve a 31% reduction in violent crime and 37% reduction in homicides.

President Barack Obama even recognized Commissioner Ramsey’s effectiveness and innovation in community policing, appointing him as the co-chair of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. This followed several high-profile incidents involving law enforcement’s use of force nationwide.

Commissioner Ramsey holds numerous educational degrees, including his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. He is also a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy, FBI National Executive Institute, and Executive Leadership Program at the Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Homeland Defense and Security. His accolades and successful career even prompted the Philadelphia Police Department Training Academy Auditorium to be named in his honor.

Commissioner Ramsey continues to be an internationally recognized practitioner and educator in his field and is past president of both the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the Major Cities Chiefs Association. He is the only law enforcement professional to serve as president of both prominent organizations simultaneously, as well as receive Leadership and Achievement Awards from four national law enforcement organizations including the FBI National Executive Institute, National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund, Police Executive Research Forum, and Major Cities Chiefs Association. He is currently a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Carey School of Law, an advisor to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and a Founding Partner in the consulting firm 21st Century Policing Solutions, LLC.

To be honored by your peers is incredibly humbling. To be honored with an award named after Patrick V. Murphy is special. He was a true visionary and giant in the field of policing. His leadership left an indelible mark on our profession. I thank the National Policing Institute for selecting me to receive this award."

Commissioner Ramsey