Integrity Icon 2023: Meet Ryan Barksdale

The Integrity Icon winner, who is community relations officer for the 25th District, lives every moment by his father’s mantra: Be someone’s cup of coffee

Integrity Icon 2023: Meet Ryan Barksdale

The Integrity Icon winner, who is community relations officer for the 25th District, lives every moment by his father’s mantra: Be someone’s cup of coffee

This profile is part of a series spotlighting the five winners of the 2023 Integrity Icon Award, a collaboration with Accountability Lab to “name and fame” City of Philadelphia employees who demonstrate the highest integrity in their work. Read all five profiles here.

When he was eight or nine years old, Ryan Barksdale and a friend parked their bikes outside a store on Wadsworth Ave. Moments later, the bikes were gone. Back home, his parents called the police to file a report. The officer, he remembers, was professional, took his time with them, and took the young victims seriously. Even then, Barksdale was savvy enough to know that he probably wasn’t getting his bike back. But his experience with that officer, dutifully doing his job, inspired the career he now believes was his calling. “I, uh … also growing up watching CHiPs, that was my favorite show,” he laughs.

Once you hear him laugh, you can’t help but laugh with him, and if you haven’t, you’re missing out.

Ryan Barksdale, a Community Relations Officer in the 25th District — encompassing Hunting Park, Franklin, Feltonville, Juniata Park, and parts of Fairhill and Upper Kensington — is one of this year’s Integrity Icons. He is the kind of man who devotes his personal time to serving others, who commits his own resources when he knows it will fulfill the community’s needs, and manages to come across as lighthearted and almost carefree while doing so.

“There’s a lot of talk about heroes in this profession, associated with things that combat violent crime or drugs,” explains fellow officer and longtime colleague Jose Borrero, Barkesdale’s classmate in the Police Academy. “And you see Ryan’s interactions, it’s a different category of hero. He’s doing things that kids remember.”

“He is someone’s cup of coffee,” Ramos Walker says, invoking Barksdale’s father’s valuable advice. “Ryan will go above and beyond, even if it’s not work-related, Ryan will do it, for the community.”

As a community relations officer, Barksdale’s job requires many hats. He and his fellow CROs are the face of the police department for their districts, responsible for engagement and fielding concerns, needs, and sometimes crises from the community. He must be visible, reliable, and accessible to the community. Barksdale joined the PPD in 2006 and had served as a patrol officer for 11 years when he was recommended for the position. At first, he wasn’t sure it was for him, but after discussing it with his father, who advised him to just test it out, he did so. As it happened, it suited Barksdale’s talents perfectly.

His colleagues describe him as the kind of officer people know they can call when they need help, and he’ll come through. His colleagues aren’t exaggerating — his phone rings even when he’s not on duty, and he always answers. The role has brought him so close to his community that he has even served as a pallbearer.

These are among the many reasons Barksdale is being honored as a 2023 Integrity Icon, an awards program The Citizen has run in partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based Accountability Lab since 2021. The goal of the program: To hold up the city workers who model how we can all go above and beyond to make a positive impact in Philadelphia.

This past spring, the public nominated dozens of excellent city workers for the award, using the following criteria: They are a high-integrity public service employee who is respectful and caring; know their work makes a difference to people’s lives; act in a trustworthy and transparent way to solve problems the best they can; treat everyone equally, without regard to politics or influence; and go above and beyond to provide good service to Philadelphians.

A panel of high-integrity judges reviewed the candidates, and selected this year’s honorees. The judges included 2020 Integrity Icon Richard Gordon IV, assistant superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia who spent years as principal of Paul Robeson High School; 2022 Integrity Icon Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a deputy commissioner in the City’s Revenue Department; Angela Val, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia; Amy Kurland, former Inspector General of the City of Philadelphia; and SEAMAAC Executive Director Thaoi Nguyen.

Officer Ryan Barksdale

“The Mayor”

Fellow officer Diana Ramos Walker, a 20-year veteran of the PPD, has known Barksdale since he first joined the force. Her niece calls him “Uncle Ryan,” and she calls him “the mayor” in jest. Ramos Walker describes his work as “phenomenal.”

“He does it so gracefully, he shows so much compassion. He always works past his time, his phone is never off, Walker says. “His thinking is always, What if they need this? What if this person needs something?

People in need are at the center of Barksdale’s life.

Barksdale volunteers for the nonprofit Legacy of Hope, delivering groceries for cancer patients. He was honored for this work during the height of the pandemic, receiving the organization’s highest honor, the Philadelphia Medal of Hope. He’s a staple at the Love Run, also raising money for Legacy of Hope’s cancer charity.

He hosts an annual summer festival block party in Kensington, a popular event that reportedly gets bigger every year. He organized an officers vs. community basketball league and a partnership with a local elementary school to provide Christmas gifts.

A few years ago, Barksdale set up a Haunted Halloween event in Hunting Park, pulling resources together with the recreation center and other community contributors to set up a safe space for kids to trick-or-treat and be scared without being in any danger. It was a huge hit, says Borrero. “Traditionally these kids aren’t as able to play freely without concern on a daily basis as they are on this one night,” he says. “It really makes a difference, you can see the parents and grandparents, they really appreciate what’s being done for the kids.”

In 2020, Barksdale and a fellow officer encountered an elderly Port Richmond resident who had been the victim of a scam when the roofing “contractor” she hired took a payment and then just took off. After making some calls, they found a contractor to do the work free of charge.

For Barksdale, integrity means, among other things, “Doing the right thing when no one is watching.”

“Everything I do is from me growing up watching my dad,” says Barksdale. “I used to always wonder why when we’d go out he’d go Hey how you doin, how you doin? And I used to ask my dad, Do you know them? And he’s like, No Ryan, but it doesn’t cost anything to say hi.”

He tends to get emotional when he talks about certain subjects, including violence in the community, and his father. Barksdale, who has a 29-year-old son of his own, tries to embody his father’s guiding principle: Be someone’s cup of coffee.

Rebecca Fabiano, Executive Director of Fab Youth Philly, met Barksdale at a Core Fit program event on the steps of the Museum of Art over eight years ago. The friendly officer was “mildly competitive,” she noted, “but would slow down to encourage anyone who needed it, and he didn’t take himself too seriously. He is a kind individual, who genuinely enjoys helping others.”

Barksdale invited Fabiano’s organization to his annual community block party. He helped plan how the teens from Fab Youth Philly could participate in his event by leading various games and activities. “The most important thing I want people to know about Ryan is that he is so good at his job,” says Fabiano. “He’s spent years building relationships, and he is loved and respected by the residents, business owners, and everyday folks he interacts with each day.”

“I know it sounds cliche, but Ryan would literally give the shirt that he’s wearing at the time to anyone who needed it. Even to another police officer,” says Borrero. “He gives up his time like there’s an endless pool of supply of his time. He’ll never stop giving. As long as I’ve known Ryan, I’ve never seen a moment where he doesn’t have it in him to give.”

“He is someone’s cup of coffee,” Ramos Walker says, invoking Barksdale’s father’s valuable advice. “Ryan will go above and beyond, even if it’s not work-related, Ryan will do it, for the community.”


Integrity Icon Philadelphia is made possible in part thanks to the generous support of Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation.



Integrity Icon Ryan Barksdale, community relations officer in the 25th District

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