Philadelphia's police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, is reportedly asking the Department of Justice to review the use of deadly force by his officers. The news comes just weeks after Philly.com launched an "occasional series" examining police shootings with a story revealing Philadelphia police had shot at 52 people in 2012, killing 11, up from 35 police shootings in 2011. It amounts to 2.92 shootings per 1,000 incidents of violent crime, which Philly.com noted was lower than the shooting rate in Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Chicago, all of whose police departments had been "put under increased state and federal scrutiny."
Not so in Philadelphia, where the FBI nevertheless netted one narcotics officer in a corruption sting. That was apparently separate from an investigation into three other former narcotics officers (still with the force) who had their testimonies in hundreds of cases declared tainted by the District Attorney late last year. Despite this, according to Philly.com, neither the DA's office nor the Internal Affairs expressed any known concern about any of the 52 shootings last year.
The police commissioner, who's been in charge in Philadelphia since 2008, now claims his office has been pondering the situation since last year. From Philly.com:
"When you have as many as we've had, it gets people wondering if they were all justified," Ramsey said. "We've been looking at this issue since December. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ knows and agrees this is a good course of action."
The Justice Department's review, to be funded by the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), will include an analysis of policies, procedures, training and tactics. It will begin in mid-July.
Calling on the Justice Department is not a first for Ramsey. As chief of the Washington D.C. police, he requested a similar inquiry.
Last year, the president of Philadelphia's police union fired off a letter to the Police Advisory Commission, a kind of civilian review board, accusing them of being a public security threat that "should no longer be tolerated" by the city and its government. In response to news of the request to the DOJ, John McNesby, the union president, said that in the best case scenario the federal review would find the department "outgunned, undermanned, and under-equipped."