Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross resigns, mayor's office says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard 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.

"Today, Commissioner Ross tendered his resignation. I am disappointed, because he's been a terrific asset to the Police Department and the City as a whole," said the mayor in a statement.

"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," Kenney added.

Ross was named in a federal civil lawsuit filed last Friday and amended on Monday.



An excerpt of a federal civil lawsuit filed against multiple people, including Commissioner Richard Ross.



The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two female police officers, Cpl. Audra McCowan and Patrol Officer Jennifer Allen, claims Ross failed to act when handling cases of sexual harassment.

Kenney spokeswoman Deana Gamble said Ross offered his resignation after Kenney learned details of the allegations by the women, including one who says she once had an affair with Ross.

Gamble said Ross knew about the alleged harassment and failed to respond adequately.

The lawsuit alleges McCowan told Ross sometime mid-February about how she was sexually harassed by another officer.

"Who is it against?" Ross allegedly said in a text to McCowan.

McCowan stated that it was a male colleague.

"So why don't you just order his dumb ass to go sit down and get out of your face 'Officer,'" Ross allegedly responded.

Court documents also reveal Ross allegedly had an affair with that woman.

"During these conversations, Commissioner Ross also stated he was going to "school" Ms. McCowan on sexual harassment and indicated that he continues to be upset with her and was getting in the way of redressing her complaints in retribution for her breaking off their two-year affair, which lasted from 2009 to 2011," says the lawsuit.

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Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross speaks to reporters following the end of a 7-hour long standoff on August 15, 2019.



Ross didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The city last summer implemented a new sexual harassment prevention policy and changes designed to prevent discrimination and harassment, Kenney said in his statement.

"While rolling out a new policy understandably takes time, I do not believe the Police Department has taken the necessary actions to address the underlying cultural issues that too often negatively impact women - especially women of color," Kenney said.

The resignation comes less than a week after a shootout involving six officers in the Tioga-Nicetown section of the city.

Ross was credited with helping to resolve the tense situation that left nine officers injured, six of which were shot by gunfire.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the best police commissioner in America," said Kenney during a press conference after the shooting.



"We are saddened to learn of Commissioner Ross's sudden resignation. Commissioner Ross has served the rank and file officers and the residents of this city with honor and respect over his three-decade tenure with the department," said, FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby. "The commissioner has served in every rank of the department and is a shining example that hard work and dedication can lead you to the top of your profession. We will miss his passion and guidance for this great police department."

The community was shocked by the announcement.

"I was flipping through my iPad and I said, "OMG he resigned" said Dina Kramer.

"I know very little about him, but based on what happened with that shooting, he seemed like a straight up commissioner to me," said Bob Kramer.

Community Activist Anton Moore has worked hand-in-hand with area police and the commissioner to combat gun violence in his neighborhood.

"When you have someone that is the face of the department and you see different things going on, you just don't know what to think and what's really taking place,'' he said.

Last month, dozens of Philadelphia officers were disciplined after a not-for-profit journalism organization exposed alleged racist and offensive Facebook posts made by officers.

Ross started with the Philadelphia Police Department in 1989 and was appointed Police Commissioner in January 2016. He served in a number of roles, working in patrol, special operations, detective bureau, homicide, and internal affairs.

Former chief of homicide and now head of the Citizens Crime Commission, John Apeldorn, has nothing but praise for Ross.

"I was shocked but you know, it's a tough job that he has and anytime somebody resigns like that, it's a shock. And I can tell you that Richard Ross, as far as our relationship with the Citizens Crime Commission, was always professional and respectful," said Apeldorn.

Mayor Kenney has named Christine M. Coulter, Deputy Commissioner for the Philadelphia Police Department as acting commissioner while a search is underway for Ross' replacement.

Coulter is also named in the lawsuit.

"The mayor was aware of that when he appointed her Acting Commissioner. Acting Commissioner Coulter has had a long and distinguished career in the department and we're confident in her ability to lead the department during this transitional time," said Gamble.

Mayor Kenney has named Deputy Commissioner Christine M. Coulter as acting-commissioner on August 20, 2019 while a search is underway for a replacement for Richard Ross.



Read Mayor Kenney's full statement below:

Mayor Jim Kenney today accepted the resignation of Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Jr.

Mayor Kenney said, "Today, Commissioner Ross tendered his resignation. I am disappointed, because he's been a terrific asset to the Police Department and the City as a whole.

"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.

"Last summer, the City implemented a new sexual harassment prevention policy and a series of internal reforms designed to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment throughout the government. While rolling out a new policy understandably takes time, I do not believe the Police Department has taken the necessary actions to address the underlying cultural issues that too often negatively impact women-especially women of color. I will be enlisting the help of an independent firm to investigate the recent allegations and to make recommendations to overcome some of the discrimination and harassment within the Department.

"I am grateful for Commissioner Ross' many years of dedicated service to our City, and the many reforms he brought to the Department. 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."

Ross started with the Philadelphia Police Department in 1989 and was appointed Police Commissioner in January 2016. He served in a number of roles, working in Patrol, Special Operations, Detective Bureau, Homicide, and Internal Affairs.

Mayor Kenney has named Christine M. Coulter, Deputy Commissioner for the Philadelphia Police Department as Acting-Commissioner while a search is underway for Ross' replacement.

"Deputy Coulter is an experienced police commander with nearly 30 years of law enforcement service," said Mayor Kenney. "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."

Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter is a three-star Deputy in the Philadelphia Police Department and most recently served as Deputy Commissioner of Organizational Services. In that position she is responsible for professional support services that enable officers and commanders in the field to have the training, equipment, and support personnel that is needed to prevent, combat, and solve crime in Philadelphia. She also oversees development of the Department's use of technology as a tool in community-engaged policing and smart policing.
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She holds a Master of Science in Public Safety Management from Saint Joseph's University, a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management from Eastern University, and an Associate degree in Criminal Justice from the Community College of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command. She is a faculty member in the graduate program of Public Safety at Saint Joseph's University's Institute of Criminal Justice and Public Safety Administration. In this post she teaches classes such as Sociology of Disaster, Risk Assessment. and Disaster Planning.

Ross' resignation is effective today, August 20, 2019.


--The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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