By Andrew Maykuth and Barbara Boyer
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey today announced a major shake-up of the department’s command – doubling the number of deputy commissioners to eight – that he says will improve accountability and drive down the crime rate.
Less than four months into the job, Ramsey reconfigured the 6,600-member department into two main operating groups that will be headed by current deputy commissioners. The bifurcated organizational structure is similar to the way he configured the Washington, D.C., department, where he was chief for nine years before stepping down a year ago.
Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, now head of internal affairs and gun control strategy, will oversee all field operations – police on the street, the muscle of the department. He was elevated from a two-star deputy to a three-star deputy.
Deputy Commissioner John Gaittens, a two-star deputy and veteran administrator, will be in charge of organizational support services – the “backroom” operations such as training, communications, administration and human services.
The four new deputies were promoted internally, much to the relief of the Fraternal Order of Police, which had opposed a ballot measure that voters approved on April 22 allowing the police commissioner to appoint up to 10 deputies. The FOP was concerned, in part, that Ramsey would import a large number of out-of-town commanders.
Appearing at a news conference with Mayor Nutter, Ramsey said the reorganization will make the department more “mission-oriented.” He said the aim is largely to get more officers on patrol, increasing the department’s visibility to send a message to the public, as well as criminals.
“The public wants to see more cops out there on the street,” he said. In the new organization, he said, “everything exists to support the patrol function.”
Ramsey said he has assigned 248 more officers to street patrol. Of that number, 109 are rookies. The rest are former members of two specialized crime-fighting units. Those officers will now report to local commanders.
“We put them in districts where they need to be, that was not the way it was before,” Ramsey said.
The commissioner and the mayor touted positive crime statistics for the administration’s first four months as evidence that their strategy is working. Homicides have decreased 24 percent, violent crime is down 4 percent, and gun seizures are up 3.5 percent.
“These are obviously indications of progress,” Nutter said. But, he said, his administration believes that the numbers are still “far from where they should be.”
The commissioner introduced his new “management team” at a news conference after spending the morning in individual meetings with the more than 40 commanders who were promoted or shifted laterally.
Ramsey noted that he would not have a first deputy. His predecessor, Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, appointed Deputy Commissioner Patricia Giorgio-Fox as head of operations, making her his clear second.
“I’m the one that’s accountable for the operations of this department – me and me alone,” said Ramsey. “What I have here is a management team, all of us working together to accomplish a mission, a goal, to make this city safe and secure. And we will accomplish that mission, and we’ll do it together, all of us working together.”
Giorgio-Fox, who now shares her three-star rank with Ross, will remain as a deputy commissioner. She will head a new office of coordination and accountability that Ramsey said will be “responsible for ensuring that efforts of all the department’s units are working together and accomplishing our mission and goals.”
Along with Giorgio-Fox, Deputy Charlotte Council and a civilian Ramsey brought in from Washington will head offices that will be part of what is called the “commissioner’s group,” which Ramsey said “will help guide this department.”
Council, currently deputy for administration and training, will oversee the new office of violence prevention and victim services.
Nola Joyce, a trusted aide who was formerly Ramsey’s assistant in Washington, will oversee the new office of strategic initiatives and innovations. Joyce, a civilian, is the equivalent of a ninth deputy commissioner, though she is technically a deputy in the city managing director’s office who has been detailed to Ramsey.
Ramsey promoted four commanders to new one-star deputies who will oversee operations and report to Ross: Capt. Thomas Wright, Capt. Kevin Bethel, Chief Inspector William Blackburn, and Inspector Stephen Johnson.
Wright, commander of the 25th District in North Philadelphia, and Bethel, commander of the 17th District in Point Breeze, catapulted several ranks up the hierarchy and will now head two regional operations commands. The north region, which includes the East, Northeast and Northwest Divisions, will be headed by Wright. Bethel will head the south region, which includes the areas covered by the South, Southwest and Central Divisions.
Ramsey praised Bethel and Wright. “They’re very effective,” he said. “They ran tough districts, and they ran them well.”
Blackburn, formerly narcotics head, will head major investigations, which includes many of the department’s centralized detective functions – homicide, special victims unit, narcotics and forensics.
Johnson, the former head of South Division’s four police districts, will head an enhanced homeland-security bureau, which will include the SWAT team and the bomb squad.
Ramsey says he has initiated a department-wide review of special units with an aim of increasing the number of “generalists” who can be dispatched to fight a range of crimes and increase the department’s visibility.
“To me, in my way of thinking, everything exists to support the patrol function,” Ramsey said in an interview Tuesday. “Everything. If you don’t support the patrol function, I question why you exist.”
Below the deputy commissioners, Ramsey made five other promotions and more than 30 lateral moves in the ranks of inspectors and captains.
His changes included at least one demotion: Kimberly Byrd, who had been the executive officer to former Commissioner Johnson, returned to her civil-service rank of sergeant and was reassigned to the Eighth District in Northeast Philadelphia.
Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or firstname.lastname@example.org.