Charles Ramsey addresses public safety concerns at Wilmington meeting

 (Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

(Matt Rourke/AP Photo, file)

Charles Ramsey discussed public safety concerns in Wilmington during a public City Council meeting Monday.

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said communication will be key when addressing public safety issues in Wilmington after attending a public meeting with Police Chief Bobby Cummings and City Council.

Ramsey discussed his role in assisting the police department with its public safety strategy during the three-hour public safety accountability meeting in Wilmington. Mayor Dennis Williams, D-Wilmington, hired Ramsey as a consultant after he retired from the Philadelphia Police Department. 

But council members remained skeptical as they expressed concerns about a lack of transparency from Williams and the police department, and say there needs to be more accountability to ensure goals are met.

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“I didn’t hear anything that was shocking—a lot of cities go through these periods where issues have to be worked out. And it’s a time of change,” Ramsey said after the meeting.

“We just have to get information out so the people fully understand everything that’s taking place and have an avenue to make comment.”

He said he’s currently learning more about the city, talking to residents and police personnel so he can present a report of recommendations to Cummings based on his observations.

An area of concern addressed at the meeting was community policing—something Ramsey said he believes is an important step toward crime reduction.

Rather than having units dedicated to community policing, all officers will be trained in this area and will have a responsibility to know residents and community leaders in their sector.

“I am a strong proponent of community policing and establishing those relationships and trust, but the model here won’t be like what we did in Philadelphia or Chicago or even D.C.,” Ramsey said. “It has to be something that fits the city of Wilmington and its community.”

Several community members elected to speak at the podium, and a common theme was the lack of interaction between law enforcement and the community.

Shaun “Hope” Bellamy of Hope’s Academy said there’s too much finger pointing among city government and not enough solutions. He said more needs to be done to understand city residents and the problems that lead to crime—such as homelessness, poverty and hunger.

“In order to make the [police] department better and get communication in the community we need to figure out how we can get respect among the police and the community,” Bellamy said. “Locking them up is not going to make the police department better.”

Other items discussed at the meeting include creating a system that measures success based on crime statistics, and creating a satisfaction survey as a way of receiving public feedback.

Still, members of council say there’s a history of being left in the dark about public safety, and feel the current administration has not kept to all its promises.

Although Ramsey said he won’t get involved in politics, information needs to be shared freely to achieve success.

“It’s just sharing information and having a way to talk to one another,” he said. “Clearly communication is part of the issue.”

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