Charles H. Ramsey
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
Chief Charles H. Ramsey delivered the following remarks during graduation ceremonies for Metropolitan Police Department Recruit Class 2001-2, held at the US Department of Commerce, on November 9, 2001. Twenty new lateral hire officers were sworn in during the event.
To the members of Lateral Class 2001-2. I say welcome to the Metropolitan Police Department. I realize that none of you is new to the profession of policing. But all of you are new to the M-P-D - the finest and proudest police force in the nation, a Department with a rich history and tradition dating back some 150 years, but also, a Department that is moving forward into the 21st Century, with a higher profile, more responsibility and greater confidence than ever before. Welcome to the most unique and exciting law enforcement experience in America today!
A lot has obviously been written and said about the horrific events of September 11 - and their impact on our society. A theme we hear over and over again is that "everything has changed" with 9-11.
There is no doubt that the attacks did change many things. They shattered our sense of innocence, and stole some of our feelings of security and safety at home and where we work and travel. They certainly forced police department to rethink some of our priorities and strategies - and to redouble our efforts around domestic preparedness and terrorism.
The attacks also reminded us that we live in a world where some people do not share in our democratic values … our standards of decency and respect for others - who do not share our abiding devotion to a society governed and protected by the "rule of law." And, of course, the attacks showed that some of these people will go to almost unimaginable lengths to undermine and destroy those bedrock principles that we, as a nation, stand for.
So, yes, a lot has changed since September 11th. But in other important respects, things have not changed at all- especially for the profession of policing.
If there were another attack today, here in our Nation's Capital or in any other city, you would see police officers and firefighters and emergency medical personnel do just what they did at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9-11. As others would run away from the danger, we would rush headlong into it, trying to protect and save others. That ethic of service to others has not changed, or if it has, it has only been strengthened over the past two months.
Last night, our Department held its annual Awards Ceremony at DAR Constitution Hall. And we took the opportunity to honor the men and women of our Department - as well as the other agencies in New York, DC and northern Virginia - who responded so bravely and heroically to the terrorist attacks of two months ago.
But the bulk of the ceremony was devoted to honoring the dozens and dozens of Metropolitan Police officers who put their lives at risk every day of the year to protect our communities and bring offenders to justice. From my perspective, that amazing commitment all of us make, to risk our own personal safety for the sake of others, has only been bolstered by the events of September 11th. So our basic mission of serving and protecting has not been eroded. Neither has law enforcement's equally important and solemn mission of protecting the rights and liberties of our citizens.
As President Bush has said, the forces of terror in our world are attacking not just buildings and people - they are attacking the fundamental principles of our democracy, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that define us as Americans, regardless of our national origin or religious or cultural background.
Our freedoms are under attack, and it is law enforcement - all of us - who remain front-line defenders of those freedoms, against enemies both foreign and home-grown. Perhaps our most basic freedom is the freedom to live and work and move about in a safe and secure manner. And defending that freedom - here in our Nation's Capital - has always been a vitally important part of the Metropolitan Police Department's mission, and it remains so today.
As we carry out this unique role, there is one other thing that has not changed in our profession: the uncompromising need for us to defend equal rights and equal justice for all, as we go about the new challenges of protecting our homeland and safeguarding our freedoms.
These are unique and uncertain times. And in the past, in times such as these, we have sometimes heard calls for weakening or eliminating things such as the exclusionary rule or Miranda warnings or any number of other legal principles that have become institutionalized in our nation and our profession.
As experienced law enforcement professionals, you, no doubt, have heard such calls in the past - and you will likely continue to hear them in the future. But as a 33-year law enforcement professional, I can tell you that now, more than ever, we need to stand up for the principles of fairness and equal justice that have served us well over the last few decades. In our renewed commitment to protect our communities and safeguard our freedoms, we in law enforcement must be more vigilant than ever in practicing the very principles we are there to defend.
Whether we are talking about racial profiling or any other forms of biased policing, we must resist the idea that we somehow have a license to "bend the rules."
Today - and every day - each of us must remain true to the Code of Ethics that we have sworn allegiance to. Yes, we must carry out our mission, a mission that has grown more complex and challenging over the last two months. But we must do so with respect for the law, and respect for the diverse people and institutions we interact with. That will be the mark of our greatness.
Clearly, our Department's unique role of policing the Nation's Capital has taken on new significance - and added pressure and visibility - since the horrific events of September 11th. If you thought the MPD was in the spotlight before, you ain't seen nothin' yet.
And because the MPD is in the spotlight, so now are each and every one of you. Your conduct, your demeanor, your effectiveness will be scrutinized like never before. In other words, you are joining the Metropolitan Police Department at just the right time. For with scrutiny comes opportunity - the chance to demonstrate, to our own residents, and to the nation and the world, your own personal motivation and pride - your devotion and courage. I know each of you possesses those qualities - you wouldn't be sitting here today if you didn't.
So my charge to you today, and every day of your careers with us - go out and do your best. Demonstrate to the community, and just as importantly, demonstrate to yourselves and your peers, that you have what it takes to serve and protect - and to defend the freedoms we cherish as Americans. God bless all of you. Be safe, and be proud.
Thank you very much.