Ex-Philly police chief Charles Ramsey: U.S. is 'sitting on a powder keg'

 Philadelphia Police Shootings
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, seen here during a news conference Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. He has since retired from the police department.

THE UNITED STATES is "sitting on a powder keg."

That's how former Philly Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey sees it. Activists and law enforcement officials are, to put it mildly, on edge after the sniper killings of five police officers in Dallas and the deaths of two black men at the hands of cops in Louisiana and Minnesota.

In an interview Sunday morning on NBC's "Meet the Press," Ramsey said: "You can call it a powder keg. You can say that we're handling nitroglycerin. But obviously when you just look at what's going on, we're at a very critical point in the history of this country."

Philly's former top cop was chosen by President Obama in 2014 to head the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and expressed concern about incidents during the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions because "the climate is simply too volatile."

The Democrats, of course, will gather in Philadelphia July 25-28.

"You've got too many people that are now with this extreme rhetoric, and that is just not good for anybody," he said on "Meet the Press." "We need to come together, we need thoughtful people to sit down and engage in dialogue, but actually come up with solutions, not just finger-pointing and playing the blame game. That's not helpful to anybody at all.

"But it is a very, very volatile time that we're in right now."

Ramsey told NBC News' Chuck Todd that some crime rates are on the rise, explaining that, on average, there are about 13,000 murders in the United States each year but that "these are not shootings by police."

"These are people killing people," he said.

"Who do you think goes after the people responsible for these crimes? It's the cops," he added. "And we encounter a lot of very dangerous people out there on the street. So we can look at numbers in a variety of ways, but I think we need to keep it in context that police officers have a very challenging and often dangerous job. Now that's not to say that we should not be mindful of the fact that we have some officers that use excessive force, that shoot people when it's not totally justified. We've got to really address that and hold them accountable.

"But it is not a reflection of the department and policing at large."

Ramsey also discussed the differences and discrepancies between police departments across the United States and said they need to be consolidated.

"There are approximately 18,000 departments in the United States," he said. "In my opinion, far too many. And we need to look at a long-term goal. More regionalization, better training, more consistency in policy and procedures."

He recommended cutting the number of departments in half "because you are always going to have these kinds of issues as long as you have this many departments with different policies, procedures, training and the like."