Philly police chief trains people to be sheep; Complains when they won't fight a wolf

By Jeff Riley

On Sept 10th, 2008 I watched in dumbfounded amazement a Today Show news report covering the vicious beating of an unarmed man on the Philadelphia subway.

The victim was attacked by a man wielding a hammer and took place over a 5 minute period all the while approximately ten onlookers watched but did not intervene. The surveillance video shows the attacker placing a young boy in a seat, then reaching into his backpack to retrieve a hammer. He then proceeds to, without warning or provocation to attack a nearby sleeping man by repeatedly beating him with blow after blow from the hammer.

The attack lasted 5 minutes with the victim frantically trying to ward off blows after being knocked to the ground. The attack finally stops when the train pulls into a station and the attacker exits the train. At this point with the victim seriously injured, a bystander pulls a notification alarm alerting the train operator that an emergency exists.

WARNING!!! The following video is graphic in nature and contains scenes of extreme violence.

It wasn't the attack or the lack of response that left me dumbfounded. After all, I don't need to tell our readers that the world is an unpredictable oft times dangerous place. This is why I and others have chosen to carry a handgun for lawful self-defense. What left me dumbfounded was the response of both the reporter and their guest, the Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey. They both were simply amazed by the lack of bystander response to intervene or to call for help.

From MSNBC:

Ramsey criticized other riders for standing by when the assailant entered the train with his 5-year-old son, directed the boy to a seat, calmly pulled a hammer from a backpack and attacked a man dozing in a nearby seat.

At least 10 other riders were in the car when the attack occurred last week, yet no one interfered as the man repeatedly struck the victim in the train car and later out on a platform, Ramsey said on "Today."

"They better pray they're never a victim, because if someone was attacking them that way they would certainly hope someone would step forward and help, and it starts with stepping forward and doing something yourself," Ramsey said.

I found myself slack-jawed. For years law enforcement official such as Chief Ramsey have drilled the premise that we (the people) should "leave these matters to the police and other trained authorities". We have been told to comply with the attackers instructions, don't confront them, don't take matters into your own hands, don't look them in the face or antagonize them in any way. Children are taught this from the time they enter into our schools via official "lock down procedures". Why then would the Chief expect them to behave any other way? After years of training to become victims how can you be surprised when they exhibit the behaviors they have been taught and championed by law enforcement? When you raise a nation of sheep, you cannot be surprised when the sheep don't fight back.

Folks, I am amazed that the Chief suggested that presumably unarmed victims should attempt to subdue a maniac with a hammer. Any law enforcement official should know that a blunt object such as a hammer is a deadly weapon and in fact street officers would be justified in shooting an attacker who attempted to assault them using a hammer.

For someone who advocates against carrying or owning a firearm for self-defense, Ramsey is sure cavalier with other person's lives. While he was the Chief of Police in Washington D.C, he was a staunch supporter of the D.C. gun ban. A darling of the Brady Center, he has won numerous accolades from anti-gun groups and his anti-liberty views are well known. A cursory search in Google will yield a treasure trove of anti-gun, anti self-defense quotes from the Chief. Appearing at a rally supporting D.C. gun restrictions in 2005, he was quoted in a Washington Post article saying "the presence of guns in households often results in more violence." On June 28, 2005, Mayor Williams and Chief Ramsey appeared before a Congressional committee to express their united opposition to the NRA-backed legislation that would rollback many of D.C.'s gun laws. Chief Ramsey's testimony included the following statement:

What impact would the repeal of D.C.'s gun laws have on our city? From my perspective, the answer to that question is straightforward—and it is scary. Repealing our guns laws would mean substantially more handguns in the District of Columbia. And more handguns would mean more gun crimes, more gun violence and more homicides, as well as more accidental shootings and suicides. More guns will also mean a greater threat to our police officers.

Chief Ramsey is also a big fan of cameras. When cops were stealing money from the police safes he responded by suggesting cameras:

At least one other theft has occurred since then, and the incidents have so alarmed the department that D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he is considering installing cameras in front of the police safes.... The theft apparently was made easy because the safe was not locked. Terrance W. Gainer, the executive assistant police chief, blamed 'sloppy procedures.[1]

It seems the Chief is a proponent of symbolism over substance when it comes to actual police work.

"I think he gets an A for public relations, but for actual substance, I think he gets a D," said Ronald E. Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Association and a former D.C. police officer who was a member of the citizens panel that interviewed Ramsey and two other finalists for the job. But Michael A. Mason, executive assistant director of the FBI, said public relations is a "huge part" of the job. "What police do is the embodiment of public relations," said Mason, who once headed the FBI's Washington Field Office.[2]

Philadelphia also tried, unsuccessfully, to overcome statewide preemption against handguns. In fact, Ramsey tried to get his officers to enforce illegal orders, until the city attorney said such charges would be illegal and she would not prosecute them.
Background information here and here).

So after decades of advocating for disarmament and creating a culture of victims the Chief is now suggesting that unarmed bystanders are supposed to take on hammer wielding maniacs? Any beat cop facing such a threat would be justified (and have been in the courts) in using deadly force against a person who attacks them with a hammer because it is a deadly weapon. Would he have suggested that an unarmed off-duty police officer intervene?

In fact, this contradicts statements issued by the Public Affairs Unit. From Philly.com:

Lt. Frank Vanore of the Public Affairs Unit, however, said it was difficult to say whether others should have done more.
Vanore said that he would not fault the other riders for not coming to Taylor's immediate aid, but that he had a problem with their not coming forward to tell police what they saw.

"The best thing to do is to be a good witness and call authorities right away," Vanore said. Police still want the other riders to call Central Detectives at 215-686-3093 and let them know what they saw, he added. The assault was recorded by a digital camera inside the train, one of 36 installed in SEPTA's 135 trains since the agency launched a new electronic security system. The entire fleet should be equipped with digital cameras in the next couple of years, Maloney said.

"This is a very strong law enforcement tool," Maloney said. "The message should go out to evildoers that if you do it on the SEPTA system, you're going to be seen and you're going to be very quickly arrested."

We have been spoon-fed this kind of tripe for years such as "If you give them what they want you won't be hurt" What if what they want is to hurt, rape, beat, or murder you? What sage advice do they have then? Much was made in this instance that security cameras caught the attacker on tape? So what? Did that stop the attack from happening? Do you expect me to believe that the fact a camera was present changed the attackers actions one whit? He made no attempt to hide his face and apparently believed (correctly) that the feed was not monitored live and no one would stop him. In fact, he rightly dismissed the camera as having no impact on his initial decision to attack, nor to discontinue the beating until he determined it should stop.

The fact that tape allowed authorities to detain a suspect the next day should be a cold comfort to the victim. At least he was arrested....again (Chief Ramsey admitted the attacker is no stranger to the justice system). Police said the man was apprehended after family members called police. Ramsey did not identify the man or say whether he had been charged yet, but said he had a lengthy record.

"He has a long criminal history including rape, robbery, assault, narcotics violations," Ramsey told the media.

Yet here he was out on the streets again ready to prey on the unsuspecting.

I suspect that the outcome might have been different had one of the bystanders been carrying a handgun for lawful self-defense. I was unable to locate an official SEPTA policy prohibiting the carry of a handgun for lawful self-defense. Pennsylvania has a strong preemption law regarding firearms and again I was unable to locate any law forbidding lawful carry of handgun for self-defense on public transportation. However that doesn't stop authorities from "discouraging" legal concealed or open carry by stopping or detaining person who carry for their own protection.

A search of the popular Pennslyvainia Firearms Owners Association forums detailed encounters where gun owners were mistakingly informed they could not carry on public transportation. Readers here in Ohio are familiar with this tactic: even after our 2007 firearms preemption law was passed some municipalities are still defiantly posting "no guns" on public transportation.

There are a number of lessons to take away from this attack. You are responsible for your own safely, not the police or bystanders. Refuse to be a victim or to buy into the victim mentality of "giving them what they want". Maintain your situational awareness of your surroundings. You may not be looking for trouble, but trouble may be looking for you and you had better be prepared.

As for the victim of the subway beating, he was dozing didn't stand a chance as he was oblivious to his surroundings. He was caught completely unaware. In his own words from the Philly.com article:

Taylor said he'd had no interaction with the assailant before the attack. He was resting, listening to hip-hop on his iPod, when the man came after him, he said last night.

"Honestly, I didn't even notice him," said Taylor, a 20-year-old laboratory assistant at the University of Pennsylvania and a regular SEPTA rider. "I was in my own world."

Let that be a lesson to those of us who carry, just because you carry a handgun doesn't mean it makes you immune from attack. It isn't a magic talisman which can ward off potential trouble. It is a valuable tool, but a tool nevertheless. Like any other tool, it can fail you, and you need to plan accordingly. You need the proper training and mindset to utilize a handgun for self-defense. Ultimately you are responsible for your own protection, you cannot count on others to help you. It is better to have a gun and not need it, than need a gun and not have one.

Jeff Riley is a Southwest Ohio volunteer for Buckeye Firearms Association.

Footnotes:
[1] Emily Wax & Cheryl W. Thompson, Second Theft Reported From a D.C. Police Safe, Wash. Post, Oct. 8, 1999; see also Editorial, Is Money Safe with Cops?, Wash. Post, Oct. 9, 1999

[2] Allison Klein & Cheryl W. Thompson, On Way Out, D.C. Chief Gets Credit, Criticism, Wash. Post, Dec. 28, 2006.

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