After Tuesday night’s debate at 6ABC, mayoral candidate Anthony Hardy Williams said that, if elected, he wouldn’t retain Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey because “people have to be replaced when they stand for a [stop-and-frisk] policy that people don’t trust.”
At a Wednesday afternoon memorial for fallen police officers and firefighters in Franklin Square, Mayor Michael Nutter indirectly addressed those comments. Namely, he attacked the intelligence of anyone who wouldn’t retain Ramsey.
“Anyone who’s not smart enough to ask [Ramsey] to stay isn’t smart enough to run this city,” said Nutter, according to NewsWorks photographer Kimberly Paynter, who was at the City of Philadelphia Living Flame Memorial event.
Asked whether that comment was a direct shot at Williams, Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald noted that other candidates have wavered on Ramsey’s retention, with Milton Street also saying he’d not keep him as commissioner.
“I think it stands pretty clearly for what it is. I’m not sure that any fine analysis is required to understand what’s being said,” said McDonald of Nutter’s comments.
Williams called a late afternoon news conference to address the issue, standing with a group of community activists and ministers to say the stop and frisk policy was unfair harmful to the community.
“I understand and respect the fact that the mayor is defending his police commissioner. The mayor and I have a respectful, but clear disagreement on this,” Williams said. “Mayor Nutter ran to implement stop and frisk and I’m running to end it. Chief Ramsey was Mayor Nutter’s pick to implement it, and in order to transform the culture of the police department, there needs to be change.”
Williams was asked about Nutter’s comment that anyone who wouldn’t ask Ramsey to stay isn’t smart enough to run the city.
“Name calling is not what I do, and I’m not going to do it. I respect him. I respect the office too much,” Williams said. “I’m not going to exchange barbs. What I’m going to do is focus on the policy.”
McDonald noted that the subtext for Nutter’s comments was a discussion of the stop-and-frisk policy that has, of late, moved to a focal position in the mayoral campaign.
Per McDonald, it’s a practice that has existed here and across the country “for many, many decades” and has been defended by former Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who recently endorsed Williams’ candidacy.
When “used appropriately” and in a constitutional fashion, stop-and-frisk is one of numerous tactics employed by the department, said McDonald “only by way of bringing sanity to the discussion.”
“I understand they’re saying this in a campaign, to help attract votes, and in light of what’s occurred from Ferguson to Baltimore and beyond, I understand their concerns,” McDonald said. “But this police commissioner and administration have worked very hard in recent years to strengthen the ties between the public servants wearing badges and carrying guns and the people they serve.
“Chuck Ramsey’s message to his folks who go out every day and risk their lives is that, ‘We work for the citizens and taxpayers and we will show them respect.’ I believe, by and large, the department does that.”
Dave Davies contributed to this report.