Despite national fame and access, Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner criticized by his predecessor for bad recruitment policies and a lack of a community policing mindset.
He blushed slightly when I told him of all the kind words taxpayers in Philadelphia have spoken regarding his work as the Police Commissioner.
Mr. Sylvester Johnson, now retired and residing in Delaware, was a member of the Philadelphia Police Department for 43 years and grew up at 17th & Susquehanna, in North Philadelphia.
It was the strong community ties, he implied, that enabled his successful approach to policing a big and, at times, dangerous city.
“Community policing is a mindset, not a program,” he said, while extending his legacy and name to bolster the visibility and cache of State Senator, Mr. Anthony Hardy Williams’ run for Mayor of Philadelphia.
“The mindset of the next mayor should be community policing… I know Senator Williams does have it.”
Though he never revealed his opinion on Mayor Nutter and whether he thinks he has the community policing mindset, Mr. Johnson was clear in his critique of Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Mr. Charles Ramsey, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to co-chair a national task force on 21st Century Policing.
“You can’t talk about community policing if you’re sitting in a building all day long… he has to be in the community… I was in the community,” he asserted, during an exclusive interview with Techbook Online, co-organizers of tomorrow’s mayoral forum on police and criminal justice reform.
Beyond the fact that Mr. Ramsey is perceived as an outsider who prefers not to mingle with community members or politicians when it’s not absolutely necessary, Mr. Johnson denounced the department’s current policy that requires officers to obtain sixty college credits before joining the force.
“60 credits doesn’t make sense; it’s just a way to eliminate people,” said Mr. Johnson, who went on to add that “college educated people are sometimes worse on communities, as they tend to look down on them.”
Mr. Johnson also pointed out the fact that no other public sector job – City Council, State Representative, State Senator nor Mayor – requires such an upfront investment in higher education.
“Everybody doesn’t want to go to college,” he said, noting that there’s little to no evidence that suggest a college educated police officer is more effective or professional than an individual without a degree.
Mr. Johnson flagged off statistics, and said he, during his tenure as the proverbial “top cop,” focused more on “quality of life” and ensuring the cops who were protecting and serving a community were individuals who resided there.
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