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From the archives: Richard Ross, Mayor-elect Kenney’s choice for Police Commissioner, said he would stay the course set by Ramsey ‘and then some’

This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on Nov. 12, 2015.

Then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross with then-Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter outside of Temple Hospital in 2018.
Then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross with then-Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter outside of Temple Hospital in 2018.Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

This article originally appeared in The Inquirer on Nov. 12, 2015.

Call it Ramsey 2.0: The Philadelphia Police Department will have new but familiar leadership come January.

First Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, whom Mayor-elect Jim Kenney announced Wednesday as his choice to lead the department of more than 6,600 officers, said he planned to keep doing what retiring Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has done - "and then some. "

Ross called Ramsey a mentor and a friend.

"We've had a great commissioner, so I don't feel the need to act like we are going to start from ground zero, because we're not," Ross said Wednesday during a news conference. "We are going to build on it. "

Ross is the first cabinet choice Kenney has announced. The mayor-elect called the police commissioner the second most important post in the city's government.

Kenney, who briefly introduced Ross during the Wednesday news conference, called him "a stellar law enforcement person ... a stellar individual and a stellar Philadelphian. "

There was nothing but praise Wednesday for Ross, from every corner of the law enforcement community and beyond.

Leaders of the local chapters of the Fraternal Order of Police and the NAACP were both at the announcement Wednesday and praised the pick.

"Rich is going to step up to the front seat, and it's going to be a great working relationship, and we're going to do a lot of good," said John McNesby, president of FOP Lodge 5.

"We're happy about this appointment," said Rodney Muhammad, president of the local NAACP. "It's important that our mayor-elect staff a good public safety team around the city. If we are going to make a world-class city, it has to be a world-class police force . . . and world-class relationship between the police and the community. "

District Attorney Seth Williams was not at the announcement but issued a statement saying in part, "I can think of no better officer to take the reins of the Philadelphia Police Department. "

Ramsey, who also was not at the announcement, said in an interview that he feels good about leaving the department in "excellent hands. "

"I think the mayor made an excellent choice, the very best choice he could have made," Ramsey said. "Rich Ross is going to be an excellent police commissioner. He knows his department, he loves the department, and he loves the city. "

Kenney said he considered launching a national search for police commissioner but, after hearing only positive comments about Ross, opted against it.

"We had probably the best candidate in the country in our own police force," Kenney said after the news announcement.

Ross, who won't take over until after Jan. 4, when Kenney is sworn in, didn't provide many specifics about what changes he might bring to the department.

He did say he is a fan of foot patrols and wants to increase the number of officers wearing body cameras. He also said that he wants to make sure police officers know they can - and should - report corruption within their ranks.

"There's no easy fix to that," Ross said of corruption. "You have to make it clear to the police officers who serve in the ranks that it is OK to report those issues and it is OK to root it out, because you don't want that in your ranks. "

On the controversial tactic known as stop-and-frisk, which Kenney as a candidate vowed to eliminate, Ross said the mayor-elect's transition committee on public safety would be discussing that in the weeks to come.

He said police are required by law to stop and pat down people only if there is "reasonable suspicion. " He expects that will continue under Kenney - with an emphasis on using the tactic only when an officer suspects criminal activity.

"The only thing that will be different is the messaging," Ross said of stop-and-frisk. "That we constantly hammer what the law is, and that we continue to message out properly what we will and will not tolerate. "

Ross, 51, is a 26-year veteran of the force and has served as a deputy under both Ramsey and his predecessor, Sylvester Johnson. He has long been spoken of as a candidate for the top job.

In his current position, he oversees daily operations for more than 6,600 personnel assigned to the Patrol Bureau, Special Investigations, Homeland Security and Domestic Preparedness, and State and Federal Task Forces.

He also has served as the commanding officer of homicide detectives, captain of the 14th District in Northwest Philadelphia, and lieutenant of the Patrol Bureau at the 35th District, which includes the Ogontz and Fern Rock sections.

Ross lives in the city's Fox Chase neighborhood with his wife and two children. He grew up in Fern Rock. After graduating from Central High School, he attended Pennsylvania State University, where he majored in labor and industrial relations. He also received a master's degree in criminal justice from St. Joseph's University.

A religious man who holds a black belt in karate, Ross is described by acquaintances as an intense, thoughtful leader, an old-school cop who has garnered respect from newer officers.

Noting he had worked closely with Ramsey, Ross said: “This is more about passing the baton. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, it’s about building upon it and making the city a better and safer place.”