PHILADELPHIA — Charles Ramsey, the former police commissioner of Philadelphia and the police chief for the nation’s capital, will be one of the few men in blue to take the stage during the Democratic National Convention.
But there is an episode in Chief Ramsey’s history of policing that may not sit well for civil rights organizers and Bernie Sanders activists at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
One left-wing group,the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, condemned Ramsey, saying he had “a record marked by excessive force, false arrests and complete disregard for constitutional rights.”
In 2002, Ramsey oversaw and directed what was considered “police misconduct” in Washington, D.C. against a protest outside the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund three blocks from the White House.
The chief ordered police to block any exits for about 650 demonstrators. Then, as recounted later in various courtrooms, he ordered the police to sweep up and arrest the demonstrators.
The arrests were so indiscriminate, D.C. police officers also swept up and imprisoned innocent bystanders including D.C. commuters, tourists and journalists who were covering the rally. In their zeal, some officers hogtied wrist-to-ankle the protesters. All of them spent a night in the city’s jails.
According to testimony later given by a detective, Ramsey said, “We’re going to lock them up and teach them a lesson.” Although the police chief adamantly denied it, in the end, Ramsey’s action cost the city a cool $10 million.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals also ruled that the arrests violated the Fourth Amendment because the police denied the free movement of people. The court further said Chief Ramsey could be held personally liable for the violations.
To add insult to injury, the Washington Post later reported that evidence of the police activity “disappeared.”
“The most authoritative police evidence – video surveillance tapes, radio recordings and a master log of police command actions of the day’s chaotic events at Pershing Park – disappeared or were mysteriously edited, according to evidence uncovered in civil suits,” the Post reported in 2010.
The Post also reported that Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham, who said he ordered the arrests with Ramsey’s approval, “said he felt no obligation to preserve any records.”
Interestingly, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan — the same judge who ordered the U.S. Department of State to release all of Hillary Clinton’s emails under the Freedom of Information Act — told city officials the District and its lawyers could face “painful” financial, professional or legal sanctions.
He is scheduled to speak between 6 pm to 10 pm.
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