Ramsey on Policing

ramsey   Charles Ramsey is a good example of top leadership in action… about upholding the values of our society. It is also describes the role of heart in policing and the impact the Holocaust Museum had on Chief Ramsey…

The Challenge of Policing in a Democratic Society: A Personal Journey Toward Understanding

Charles H. Ramsey, Commissioner of Police, Philadelphia

As a law enforcement officer my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to protect the Constitutional rights of all people to liberty, equality and justice. (IACP, 1957)

 “This paragraph is part of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. I believe it captures the essence of what it means to be a police officer in a democratic society.

“Unfortunately, the policing profession sometimes loses sight of what I believe is the most challenging element: ‘to protect the Constitutional rights of all people to liberty, equality y and justice.’ Police leaders must ensure that their officers fully understand and the nature and significance of the commitment this brief phrase suggests. It commits us to a pact with the communities we serve.

“We make this commitment standing before God, swearing allegiance to the principles, values and ethics of the law enforcement profession. It took me almost 30 years and a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to fully comprehend the role police play in protecting the freedoms that we, as Americans, hold dear. Today, I strive to share important lessons about these obligations with my officers — in part through the use of symbolism and ceremonies and in part by telling certain stories. This paper describes some of the most valuable lessons I believe I learned through reflecting on the exhibits at the Holocaust Museum. It also describes some of t he ways in which I have sought to convey those lessons to other officers…”

To read more of Chief Ramsey’s story, CLICK HERE.

[This is one in a series of papers that will be published as a result of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety. Harvard’s Executive Sessions are a convening of individuals of independent standing who take joint responsibility for rethinking and improving society’s responses to an issue. Members are selected based on their experiences, their reputation for thoughtfulness and their potential for helping to disseminate the work of the Session. In the early 1980s, an Executive Session on Policing helped resolve many law enforcement issues of the day. It produced a number of papers and concepts that revolutionized policing. Thirty years later, law enforcement has changed and NIJ and Har vard’s Kennedy School of Government are again collaborating to help resolve law enforcement issues of the day.]

Citation: Ramsey, Charles, The Challenge of Policing in a Democratic Society: A Personal Journey Toward Understanding. New Perspectives in Policing Bulletin. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2014. NCJ 245992.




  1. Chief,
    The Meyner Center for State and Local Government at Lafayette College hosted its annual Local Government Forum yesterday, and Commissioner Ramsey was the featured speaker. He spoke to about 60 police leaders and government officials about challenges and successes related to contemporary policing.


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