On Tuesday, January 5th, the 275 senior class was invited to watch Richard Ross (241) get sworn in as Philadelphia’s new Police Commissioner. Hundreds of policemen and policewomen, all garbed in uniform, from different departments and counties watched Ross take the stage and get sworn in by Philadelphia’s new mayor, Jim Kenney, and District Attorney Seth Williams (244) in Central’s auditorium. News cameras recorded the momentous occasion and reporters (even those from The Centralizer) eagerly waited for their chance to get statements from Ross, Kenney, esteemed guests, and even students.
After getting sworn in, Ross stood at the podium and addressed the audience with a speech that highlighted how he formed his values as a law enforcement officer and as an active member of the Philadelphia community. He addressed the difficulties law enforcement agencies face across the country and applauded the diligent service of the men and women working in law enforcement.
“We need to be more responsive to and more accountable for all of our neighborhoods,” stated Ross. “We can’t be afraid of that. We can’t be afraid to show people who we are and why we do things….because after all, we can’t implore it enough, and I can’t state it enough, that it is so imperative for us to work together, and a lot of what happens in our lives helps to shape who we are, what we do, and how we do it…We will work together to do a variety of things.
“Obviously I spoke about improving police and community relations but obviously our biggest issue right now is to reduce crime as well….There are men and women in this department that would absolutely astound you. What they do, their level of intelligence, their innovativeness—I could not be happier to lead this organization because [the organization] makes me proud each and every day.
“We will leverage one of the greatest assets, and that is the community…Without them, we won’t be able to do this. Whether you want to talk about police-community relations or whatever you want to title it, the reality of it is that we must work together. A lot of that will come together because of the leadership of Mayor Kenney, District Attorney Seth Williams, President of City Council Darrell Clarke, the clergy, and many other people here today. So, I am confident that we will do a lot for this city despite the challenges we are up against….We need to open the lines of dialogue to even those who don’t trust and don’t want to connect with us because we won’t do it any other way. I think we reached a pinnacle where it’s time to sit down and talk, and work some things out.”
Ross then recounted an incident from his childhood when a burglar had broken into his family’s house. However, due to the quick actions of Ross’s neighbor, the burglar fled the scene, and the neighborhood had woken up.
Ross remembered how he had provided “backup” to his father, who, like all of the other fathers in the neighborhood, “had on his robes and pajamas.” They all stood outside, alert, “with their right hand in their robe pocket,” and patrolled the neighborhood. That night left a significant impression on Ross’s character because he saw how the community protected itself and was able to do so effectively when people worked together.
Ross also noted the significance Central has had on his life.
“So, a lot of you already know as a result of a variety of sources, why Central? About two months ago, maybe less than that, the mayor-elect then, and I, had a conversation, one of many, and he said, ‘Look, I’m not that conventional. If there is a place that is important to you, I’m okay. It doesn’t have to be City Hall,’ and almost instantly I said Central, and he jumped on it as well.”
Ross also referenced how many members of his family attended Central, which made the school almost part of a family tradition.
“It’s a wonderful institution. The mayor spoke about the fact that the diversity that you see when you come here, you see that right away. People from all over the city of all backgrounds and all religions come together and you automatically see what this city is about—a city of neighborhoods.”
To end his speech, Ross addressed members of 275, and offered them words of advice relating to their future careers and life after Central.
“You are leaving one of the finest institutions in the country, and hold your head high, irrespective of what institution you choose to attend. Go to one. Make yourself proud, and also go after your dreams. Make certain that your actions match your aspirations. If you claim you want to do something, do it, and let everything that you do look like that. I know you can do it. Make us all proud.”
After the speeches, members of 275’s cabinet presented Ross and Kenney with Central gift bags. Ross proceeded to take pictures with various officers, guests, students, and family members. When the time came to answer questions, Ross made sure to save time for a brief interview with Centralizer reporters.
When asked about how Central helped him on his career path, Ross answered, “This is a challenging school, as you well know, and it prepares you because it tells you that you’ve got to work hard to succeed in life. They cut you no breaks here, as you found out probably in ninth grade, and it just demonstrates that if you really want to do something significant in your life, you have to put the work in. Your actions should match your aspirations. If you say you want to do something, then everything you want to do should look like that, even to other people.
“You can’t claim that you want to be a doctor, but then your grades are horrible, or you want to do that and you don’t go to school. You have to do everything that you want to do and it should match what your aspirations are. It’s hard work, [but] this school makes you do that. You might not even get out of here with the highest GPA, but to get out of here successfully, you had better work. [Central is] just significant in everything.”
Ross had words for the Philadelphia community and his thoughts on how he would lead the police department as its new head.
“We talk about partnerships all the time, and partnerships actually go both ways. We extend ourselves, and we’ll be doing that in ways that they’ve never seen, but we will need the same thing to happen in return. Although some folks might not always love us or what we do, if you really want to make change, the best way to do it is be on the inside. You don’t have to come away loving the police department, but you can be a part of the solution.”
Ross embodies the characteristics that Central hopes to instill in all of its graduates. Ross’s leadership and outreach within the Philadelphia community promises to restore order to a police department that has faced numerous controversies over the past few years. We wish him best of luck in his new position as police commissioner.
Ashish Dahal (275), Editor-in-Chief
Zoe Braccia (275), Managing Editor
Natan Yakov (275), Editor-in-Chief
Albert Tanjaya (275)