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Rahm Emanuel and Philadelphia’s Charles Ramsey discussing Chicago’s top cop job

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey disclosed Tuesday he has already talked to Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel about the possibility of coming home to run the Chicago Police Department, and he’s “intrigued” by the idea.

“The fact that I started in Chicago, that I left and have since worked in two different cities. The thought of maybe coming back fourteen years later — I don’t know that it’s ever happened before in Chicago,” said Ramsey, 60.

“I’m intrigued by the possibility of coming back home. I still have family in Chicago. Both sets of grandparents are buried in Chicago. When the Eagles played the Bears, I was rooting for the Bears.”

Ramsey said the contact was initiated by Emanuel with the prospect of more discussions to come. They talked about the mayor-elect’s “clear vision” for a Police Department with beat officers as the backbone and about Emanuel’s determination to breathe new life into a community policing program that Ramsey got rolling.

They talked about the need to restore morale that plummeted under newly-departed Supt. Jody Weis. Rank and file officers viewed the career FBI agent as an outsider who didn’t have their backs.

Ramsey stressed that he has not yet been offered the Chicago job and that, if he does get an offer, the decision would be a difficult one.

He loves Philadelphia and has a good working relationship with Mayor Michael Nutter, who has made it clear that he wants Ramsey to stay.

But, Ramsey said succeeding Weis would be coming home to run a Police Department where he started as a cadet. And there’s nothing quite like coming home.

“That’s a big part of it. The other part is a mayor who has a vision for a city that I love and just starting out and being part of something from the ground floor is always appealing. You’re not just filling a position. You’re really part of a brand new administration. That’s always exciting,” Ramsey said.

As for Emanuel, he said, “I like him a lot. I think he’s gonna be an excellent mayor. He has a clear vision. He wants to restore morale and get back to the basics where the beat officer is close to the community.”

Last week, Emanuel told the Chicago-Sun-Times that Ramsey has “great strengths” that “would be natural for the job” of Chicago police superintendent. He reiterated those remarks on Tuesday.

“I’m gonna look for somebody who shares a vision on community policing, that understands that the beat officer is the backbone of the Police Department. Without a doubt, if you look at Chuck Ramsey’s record, he has all the skills and qualities to do that,” Emanuel said.

The mayor-elect also refused to say whether the new superintendent he hopes to have in place by the May 16 inauguration would get the same, $310,000-a-year salary that Daley paid to Weis.

An “at will” employee working without a contract in Philaldelphia, Ramsey has an annual salary of $195,000. He’s also collecting a $95,000-a-year Chicago police pension that Ramsey said would “have to stop” if he becomes superintendent.

Ramsey is the former head of Chicago’s community policing program who left the city in a huff after Daley’s surprise choice of Terry Hillard as superintendent in 1998. Ramsey spent nine years as Washington D.C. police chief before moving on to Philadelphia in 2008.

Pressed Tuesday to describe his own strengths, Ramsey talked about the experience he gained after implementing community policing in three different cities: Chicago, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

“I guess I’m both an outsider and an insider. I’m an insider in the sense of having spent almost 30 years in the Chicago Police Department — from cadet all the way up to deputy superintendent. But, I’ve been away now almost 14 years. I’ve gained a lot of experience. I’ve grown in my understanding of how police departments operate and also coming to appreciate the need for police and community to work closely together to resolve problems and build trust,” he said.

Asked how he would attack the morale problem in Chicago, Ramsey said, “I don’t think it takes very much. You have to get out there and listen. Hit the roll calls. Go out there and ride around with some of these guys. Find out what they need. That’s how you get at it. It’s a good Police Department with a lot of dedicated men and women. It won’t take long to get them back on track.”

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