Former Commissioner Richard Ross says he was not forced out, denies retribution allegations

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- One day after his resignation was announced, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said he was not forced out from his job and denied allegations of retribution in a harassment lawsuit filed by two female members of the force.

Ross resigned Tuesday amid allegations that members of his department engaged in sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination against two women serving in the ranks.

The suit was filed by two black, female police officers, one of whom is also Hispanic, who claim they were subjected to years of sexual harassment, mistreatment, racial discrimination, and fear of retaliation.

Ross is not directly accused of sexual harassment, but rather of not directly addressing the allegations. One of the plaintiffs said Ross ignored her complaints because she once broke off an affair with him. Ross denied that claim.

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Richard Ross speaks out after resigning as police commissioner during an interview with Action News reporter Walter Perez on August 21, 2019.

While the lawsuit was a catalyst for his resignation, Ross said it was not the only factor.

He said the abrupt decision to resign was entirely his, and says he has actually been thinking about retiring for a few years now after his pressure-filled tenure as the city's top cop.

Thirty years on the job, including more than 14 years with the rank of deputy commissioner or higher, had taken their toll.

"That's a lot in a city like this that's fraught with issues like poverty and gun violence," said Ross.

Ross even admits, last week's shootout where six of his officers were shot and wounded was a factor in his decision, as is the city's rising homicide rate.

"I'm not suggesting the pressure was too much, I'm suggesting that after a while, you're a human being, and when you care about people who are losing their lives senselessly, it does bother you," he said.

As far as his alleged role in any form of retaliation, he says, "In my 55 years of life, in 30 years of professional life, I have never, ever sought retribution or any negative action on any one person or professional, and so if anything hurts me, that probably hurts me the most."

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Mayor reacts to resignation of fmr. Commissioner Ross. Maggie Kent reports during Action News at 4pm on August 21, 2019.

Also on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney responded to questions about Ross' resignation.

Kenney says he spoke to Commissioner Ross after the barricade and officer shooting situation that left six officers wounded last week.

"I asked Ross last week 'Are you okay?' He said 'No, I'm tired,'" said Kenney. "I think he made the right decision for the city and for the department."

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Bullets ricochet on sidewalk next to police

He reiterated at several points that Ross reached this decision on his own and that he was not fired.

Kenney has named Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter as acting commissioner while a search is underway for Ross' replacement, however Coulter was also named in the lawsuit.

The mayor said the search for a new commissioner would be both local and national and that during the search input from various sectors of the community would be sought.

"Diversity is a priority in all of what we do," said Kenney. "I am acutely aware that I am a white male... I know that the optics of diversity need to be maintained."

The new acting police commissioner is focused on what's ahead, and the problems plaguing Philadelphia.

"What I would like to change, as we all would, is the level of violence within the city and we'll work tirelessly to do that. I'd like to change and improve on relationships with our community, with our partners," said Commissioner Coulter.

Coulter, with a 30 year history in law enforcement, is the first woman to lead the department.

"I have always been honored as both a woman and police officer to serve this city and I look forward to doing that moving forward," she said.
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