Earned trust is key

We hope Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey can make a real difference as cochair of President Obama's task force on policing ("Should have had trials," Dec. 7). That's not because his Philadelphia department has a perfect track record. It doesn't. But there are positive steps underway, including publishing basic details about officer-involved incidents in the wake of a U.S. Department of Justice review.

The tragedies in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., resonated because many communities - particularly those of color - have experience with police misconduct or brutality. The grand jury decisions were salt for easily opened wounds.

To have an impact, transparency must be one of the task force's top objectives. Using body cameras in the department is a tactic with promise. But surmounting trust deficits will require creating policy with input from individuals and community groups, not just handing down edicts.

Local law enforcement leaders and their counterparts nationwide must open the books and show the metrics of all police conduct in greater detail to earn moral authority from a skeptical citizenry. That authority engenders trust, which puts us on course for a just, peaceful society for all - because all lives matter.

|Rue Landau, executive director, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, and Kelvyn Anderson, executive director, Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission

In the heat of action

After the tragedies at Ruby Ridge and Waco, then-Attorney General Janet Reno issued guidelines for the use of deadly force, noting, "The reasonableness of a belief or decision must be viewed from the perspective of the officer on the scene, who may often be forced to make split-second decisions in circumstances that are tense, unpredictable, and rapidly evolving. Reasonableness is not to be viewed from the calm vantage point of hindsight."

That means it is the officer who has to decide, and not politicians months later.

In our society, if we don't like the government we get, we have a fail-safe written into the Constitution. It's called an election. If you don't like the policies, then change the government. But don't blame those who lawfully carry out those policies.

|Ron Chance, Hammonton


Skills work can help job seekers ace interview

At the Mayor's Commission on Literacy, we agree that 21st-century skills education for those in poverty is critical to their employability ("Census: Income gap is widening," Dec. 7). Gone are the well-paying jobs you could get without some college education. In Philadelphia, that has left hundreds of thousands unable to find a job, or having to work two and three jobs, but still subsisting below the poverty level.

That's why the commission created a citywide, technology-based system called myPLACE that can educate adults for 21st-century jobs on a large scale. In just a few months, myPLACE has served more than 3,500 job seekers, half of whom took our online course to learn computer, job searching, and career planning skills.

The commission has also developed myPLACE Online, the nation's first online, cohort-based courses for low-literacy adults in reading, writing, and math. Our adult learners have raised their math and reading levels by as much as one to three grade levels by taking just one six-week course.

The myPLACE system and online courses work, and they are cost-efficient and ready for expansion in Philadelphia and replication in other locales.

Wherever you see low median incomes, you will also find residents whose skills are too low to give them an entrée into the workforce. Adult education is the answer.

|Judith Rényi, executive director, Mayor's Commission on Literacy, Philadelphia,


Penn president should have stood up

I am appalled that University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann gave in to the pressures of the uninformed mob mentality surrounding the Michael Brown case and participated in a "die-in" protest last week ("Penn protest disrupts party," Dec. 10).

Gutmann publicly states that she will always support those of us who serve as university police officers. But to have her participate in such a disrespectful act is not in any way support - and it proves that she does not have the backs of officers. It is a slap in the face to every person who wears the Penn police uniform.

As a supervisor of law enforcement employees, she should at the very least remain neutral in the face of the Ferguson protests.

|Eric J. Rohrback, president, FOP Lodge 113, Penn Police Association, Philadelphia


Council chief is compassionate, practical

I take exception to the editorial criticism of City Council President Darrell L. Clarke ("Deal breaker," Dec. 9). I know Clarke to be an intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate leader.

It's ironic that an editorial board that routinely advocates for the poor and elderly would criticize Clarke for doing the same. Clarke's concern for our most vulnerable citizens was a primary reason he and his Council colleagues killed the plan to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works to a private firm.

Nor is Clarke antibusiness. As a longtime real estate developer, I can state unequivocally that Clarke is a champion for responsible development and the growth of the city's business sector.

|Bart Blatstein, Tower Investments, Philadelphia