Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following statement to Recruit Class 2001-4 at the Voice of America, 330 Independence Ave., SW, on May 31, 2002.
To the members of Recruit Class 2001-4 --to the newest members of the Metropolitan Police Department -- I say "welcome." Welcome to the best, most exciting, most rewarding profession there is - the profession of policing. And welcome to the finest, proudest, most progressive and forward-moving police department I know of - the Metropolitan Police Department.
I want each of you to stop for a moment and consider just what you have accomplished in being here today. Consider that literally thousands of individuals dream of becoming Metropolitan Police officers ... and several hundred apply each year to join our force.Only a handful of these people are able to pass all of the entrance examinations and meet the high standards we set for even getting into our Training Academy. And during their long weeks of training, some recruits invariably drop out ... because they have trouble meeting our exacting standards for physical conditioning, academic excellence and specialized skills. So out of the many who dream about one day sitting where each of you now sits, and pinning on the badge that each of you will pin on in a few minutes ... only an elite few possess the talent, the desire, the motivation and the perseverance to make that dream a reality. Today, I am very proud of what each and every one of you has achieved in reaching this first step in your law enforcement career. And I look forward to continued success and even greater achievements from you in the future.
As you well know, the Metropolitan Police Department is always in the spotlight - and, as a result, the individual members of our Department are in the spotlight as well. You have no doubt seen myself, Chief Gainer and Command officials interviewed over the past year about any number of high-profile incidents - whether it is the Chandra Levy murder investigation … the terrorist attacks of September 11th … the anti-globalization protests against the IMF and World Bank … or any number of other incidents that attract local, national and even international media attention. The news reporters may be interviewing us, but the world is watching all of you. You need to remember that. And you need to carry yourself with the dignity and pride and professionalism that have come to define our Department. But as high-profile as some of these situations may be --and as bright as the media spotlight may seem at times--I want to remind all of you of something very important.
To the people who matter the most, the residents, workers and visitors in our city, you will be judged not on how swiftly or adeptly our Department solves the Chandra Levy homicide or deals with anti-globalization protesters. You will be judged on how well you serve their communities - how visible and helpful and accessible you are to them … how seriously and compassionately you listen to their concerns … and how energetically and effectively you respond during times of need.
This past Wednesday evening, there was a citywide memorial service for homicide victims and their survivors, at the Shiloh Baptist Church in the Shaw community. I was unable to attend the service. Assistant Chief Brian Jordan represented our agency. And Chief Jordan reported back to me something that wasn't unexpected, but is still very telling. With all the media attention being paid to the Chandra Levy case --with the wall-to-wall coverage from TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet--the dozens and dozens of survivors at Wednesday's service were left asking a simple question - What about my case? What about my loved one? Why doesn't the world seem to care about me?
Some of the survivors expressed frustration that, while one case can generate month after month of "front-page coverage," the homicide of their loved one may have received four lines in the back pages of the Washington Post. These survivors are frustrated and hurt, because they care about their loved ones just as much as the Levys care about Chandra. They are grieving just as deeply, and they want comfort and closure as much as every other survivor does.
It's hard explaining to some victims and survivors that it's not the police who decide what makes it on the evening news or in the morning papers - that's what news editors and executives do. But it is our job to provide service - thorough, caring and professional service - to anyone and everyone in need. And, now, it's your job as well... as new members of this Department.
When no one else seems to be paying attention, or to care, it's your job to step in with a helping hand... and to do so with interest, with energy, with care and always with compassion.
Outside of family members or close friends, you may be the only person in an official capacity to talk with a victim or a survivor about their case, to hear their concerns, to understand their anguish and their fear. Treat that interaction, not as some type of routine matter - fill out the paperwork and be gone. Treat it as an opportunity, a chance to provide some comfort and some hope to someone in need. Treat it as an opportunity to gather that nugget of information you or the detectives may need to solve the case - to take an offender off the streets and bring some closure to the victims.
Do those things - and do them well and do them always - and you will be judged a hero in the community you serve.
In closing, let me say once again to all of our new officers ... "congratulations" and "welcome." You have proven that you have what it takes to be a member of this Department and this profession. You have demonstrated proficiency in all of the things we have asked you to do thus far. But now, the challenges become much greater, and the stakes much, much higher.
Our residents - those who live outside the glare of the media spotlight, trying in their own way to lead safe and productive lives - are relying on you to help them achieve their goals. The community itself has an important role to play in this process. And under "Policing for Prevention," we are empowering the community to be a strong and active partner in fighting - and preventing - crime.
But remember: as police officers, you play a special role in this process. It is a role that carries considerable risk and sacrifice, but also a role that gives you an amazing opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others. Seize that opportunity ... this day and every day of your career. Recognize the tremendous potential you have as a single police officer and as a member of this Department. And put that potential to work for our communities.
Thank you very much, and may God bless all of you.