Philadelphia Police Commissioner Steps Down for the ‘Greater Good of All Citizens’ Amid Sexual Harassment, Discrimination Allegations


Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images (Getty Images)

With the integrity of the Philadelphia police department crippled by allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination, commissioner Richard Ross made the abrupt decision to resign on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney released an official statement announcing the shocking news.

“Today, Commissioner Ross tendered his resignation,” Kenney said in his statement. “I am disappointed, because he’s been a terrific asset to the Police Department and the city as a whole.”

Kenney added, “New allegations of sexual harassment as well as gender and racial discrimination among the rank and file have recently been brought to my attention. While those allegations do not accuse Commissioner Ross of harassment, I do ultimately believe his resignation is in the best interest of the Department.”

NPR reports that Ross’ dismissal coincides with complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit filed by Audra McCowan and Jennifer Allen, two police officers who allegedly endured “continuous and on-going sexual harassment and discrimination from within the department.” Cpl. McCowan, in particular, believes Ross failed to properly address her complaints out of “retribution for her having broken off a two-year affair with Ross in 2011,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On Wednesday, Ross told reporters that he “never sought retribution on a person, personally or professionally” and that his decision to step down was for the best interest of the city.

“I just thought for the greater good of all citizens of Philadelphia, [the] fine police officers here, and the mayor, that it would be better if I just move along,” Ross said. “Given everything else that we have to contend with, that this issue would be a distraction that this department and this city don’t need.”

During his own press conference on Wednesday, Kenney expressed his reluctance to remove Ross but admitted he was left with no other choice.

“I don’t want to forget all of the positive things that have happened during his 3 1/2 years,” Kenney told reporters at City Hall.

According to NPR, Ross joined the department 30 years ago as a patrolman in 1989. His tenure included stints with the Homicide Unit and Internal Affairs before he was eventually named a deputy commissioner in 2005. In 2016, he was appointed Police Commissioner.

Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter has been named acting-commissioner until a permanent replacement has been appointed. She is the first woman in the history of the city to hold the position.

“Deputy Coulter is an experienced police commander with nearly 30 years of law enforcement service,” Kenney said in a statement. “She has diverse experience in patrol operations, narcotics intelligence, and investigations. I have full faith in her ability to lead the Department during this time of transition.”

“I am grateful for Commissioner Ross’ many years of dedicated service to our City, and the many reforms he brought to the Department,” the statement continues. “However, I believe new leadership will help us continue to reform the Department and show that racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination simply will not be tolerated.”