Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC
Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following remarks during graduation ceremonies for Metropolitan Police Department Recruit Class 2000-5, held at the Bureau of Engraving auditorium in Southwest DC, on March 16, 2001. Thirty-two new officers were sworn in during the event.
"To the members of Recruit Class 2000-5, I say 'Congratulations and Welcome'. Welcome to the finest profession there is, the profession of policing. Welcome to the very best police department in the nation, indeed the best in the world, the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC.
You are now members of an elite group of individuals. A group that is sworn to serve and protect our nation's capital and the residents of this great city. It is a responsibility, an achievement, that many people strive for - but very few ever attain. Each and every one of you should be very proud of what you have accomplished here today.
Thank you, family members and friends, for being here today. And welcome to the MPDC family as well. Today is a day filled with a lot of emotions for you, the members of Class 2000-5. There is joy and probably a good measure of relief. There is a tremendous sense of personal accomplishment —and certainly excitement about the challenges that lie ahead. Through your hard work, your persistence, your dedication to duty— each of you has demonstrated that you have what it takes to be a member of this profession and this Department. Remember that accomplishment, treasure it, each and every day of your career. In just a few minutes, you will be pinning on the badge of the Metropolitan Police Department for the first time. Pinning on the badge is a special moment for all police officers - in our Department and in departments around the world.
Almost three years ago, we modified this portion of the graduation ceremony to include family members and other loved ones in the process. Each of you has selected someone special in your life who will come up on stage to help you pin on the badge for the very first time. When that person stands here next to you, to share in this special moment. I would ask that you pause for just a minute and look in that person's eyes. Note the look of pride and joy and love on their face. And then, every day you don your uniform and pin on your badge —and I hope there will be many, many of those days for each of you— remember this moment, and the loved ones who shared it with you. Remember their love and their pride and I guarantee you that you will never do anything to tarnish your badge or bring discredit upon yourself or your Department.
Each of you has completed nearly six months of rigorous academic, physical and tactical training—the last thing you are probably thinking about right now is more training. But as you leave here today, remember that your training and education have only just begun. In this profession, and on this Department, you must be prepared to be "in training" every day of your career. A couple of years ago, we have adopted the policy that "every day is a training day" in the Metropolitan Police Department. And we are fulfilling that commitment through our daily roll-call training; through annual in-service and firearms training; through specialized courses; and, of course, through the on-the-job knowledge and experience you gain "by doing" and by working with your fellow officers and civilian employees. Relish the training opportunities we provide you. Seek out new information and ideas. And apply what you have learned to help you do your job better every day. Keep learning in this job and you will definitely be a better police officer for the effort.
Much of the training you received in the Academy and the much of the training you will continue to receive from the Department focuses on the law enforcement aspects of our job ... and that is certainly appropriate.
Enforcing the law and arresting and apprehending offenders is central to our mission as police officers and a critical component of our 'Policing for Prevention' strategy. Enforcing the law is a unique responsibility that our city and our residents have bestowed on each and every sworn member of the Metropolitan Police Department. It is an awesome responsibility, and it is absolutely critical that each of us be trained —and constantly re-trained— in the fair, judicious and effective use of our law enforcement powers. Use-of-force, search-and-seizure, the criminal code and civil rights are not topics that can be addressed in a few hours of classroom training and then left alone. These are fundamental issues, along with police tactics and officer safety, that must be re-visited and continually reinforced throughout our careers. They are just that important. But while training in the fundamentals of law enforcement is certainly important, our jobs entail much more than enforcing the law.
A major part of a police officer's job probably the majority of our effort involves dealing with people and understanding and solving their problems. Whether it's a disabled motorist or a visitor seeking directions, a family worried about a missing teenager or a community working to solve a crime or disorder problem, you can expect to spend most of your time dealing, not with criminals, but with members of the community who have been victimized by crime, either directly or indirectly, or who somehow need your help.
This job is a "people job" and each of you must dedicate yourselves, beginning right now, today, to do your very best to help others each and every day you put on the uniform of the MPDC. And you will continue to receive training on this "people" aspect of your job as well. In fact, your recruit class has already had a unique training experience in this area.
Earlier this year, our Department conducted a first-ever, comprehensive telephone survey of recent crime victims in the District —people who had been the victims of serious crimes (other than sexual assault, domestic violence and homicide) in November and December of last year. Our goal was straightforward: to hear directly from crime victims about the level and quality of service they received from the Metropolitan Police Department. And although we are still tabulating the results, I have a feeling that when all is said and done, the survey will not paint a very pretty picture. Not just our Department, but police departments in general, have traditionally done a poor job when it comes to understanding and addressing the needs of crime victims. It's an area I know we must get better at, and it is an area that we will get better at. In designing the survey, I insisted on one thing: that the telephone calls to victims be made by recruit officers, including members of Recruit Class 2000-5. I wanted each of you to hear from the victims themselves, to listen to and understand their issues, their concerns, their needs and desires, in these individuals' own words.
I wanted each of you to appreciate, first hand, that for every crime there is an offender and a victim - sometimes more than one victim. I wanted you to realize that while it is critical for us, as police officers, to identify and apprehend offenders, it is also critical that we tend to the needs of victims. Many victims, especially victims and survivors of the most serious crimes, are left with deep emotional scars and complex needs in the aftermath of a crime. Often times, these needs must be addressed by social service, religious and legal experts - not by police officers. But regardless of a victim's exact needs, one fact remains: the first person, the first "official representative" that most victims encounter after a crime is likely to be a police officer. Beginning today, that police officer will be one of you. How each of us treats that victim of crime, how we communicate with him or her, can set the tone for how that person will cope with the tragedy he or she has just experienced. How each of us handles a victim will definitely influence that individual's feelings about you and about the entire Metropolitan Police Department, possibly for the rest of their lives. It will influence the feelings about our Department among the victim's family, friends and other loved ones who may hear of the incident.
So this is a make-or-break moment, when you, as a police officer, first encounter a victim of crime. When you have that interaction, stop for a minute and think about this: If that victim were a friend or family member, if that victim were the person who will come up on stage in a few minutes to pin on your badge, how would you want your loved one to be treated by the police? Would you be pleased or satisfied if the officer were brusque or disinterested, accusatory, or downright rude to your loved one? Or would you want the officer to kind and considerate, compassionate and understanding? Think about that choice. Think about what it means to the person on the other side of the interaction, each and every time you encounter a victim of crime. Do that and you will be a better police officer. Do that and make the right choice and the MPDC will be a better, more effective police department because of the extra effort you put in.
I want to close this morning by once again congratulating all of our new officers. This is an exciting day for each of you, just as it is an exciting day for our Department as a whole. The MPDC is definitely a Police Department that is on the move, a Department that is moving in new directions to reduce and prevent crime and to better serve the community, including the community of crime victims. The MPDC has a long history in this city, and a proud tradition within the law enforcement community. Each of you is now a part of that history, that tradition. Welcome to our family and may God bless and protect each one of you and your loved ones.