Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross has abruptly resigned amid claims of harassment and discrimination at his department.
The Philadelphia Police Department announced Ross’ resignation Aug. 20. Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said Ross had ineffectively handled these cases of harassment and discrimination and that he believes Ross’ leave is best for the department.
One of the cases in question involves two women, Cpl. Audra McCowan and Officer Jennifer Allen, who filed a lawsuit last month saying they had been groped and verbally harassed by male coworkers, sometimes in the presence of their supervisors. Additionally, the suit says, when the women complained, their bosses punished them. The suit says the women believe they have been denied training and promotions on account of their race and gender. McCowan is Black and Allen is Black and Hispanic.
Though Ross himself has not been accused of this harassment or other incidents of gendered or racial discrimination at the department, Kinney said Ross failed to act adequately to address them.
Ian Bryson, the lawyer representing both women, told the New York Times his clients are hoping Ross’ resignation will allow other women of color to have their voices heard.
McCowan said in her legal complaint that she spoke to Ross about the harassment and that his only action regarding the matter was telling McCowan to tell the offending officer to stay away. Furthermore, McCowan’s complaint alleges Ross did not act on her complaints in retribution for her breaking off a romantic relationship she had with him in 2011.
However, Ross told reporters that he had never sought retribution against McCowan or anyone else, personally or professionally.
#BREAKING: Former PPD Commissioner Richard Ross says he has never targeted anyone personally or professionally when addressing a federal civil case alleging he ignored sexual harassment claims made by officers about other officers. Ross resigned yesterday pic.twitter.com/R7afMJm2iz
— Dan Koob CBS3 (@DanKoob) August 21, 2019
He also said he was resigning on his own volition.
His resignation came a day after McCowan and Allen submitted an amended version of their lawsuit which lists an extended list of department members as defendants, the Times reported. Ross, the city of Philadelphia and 10 other current and former department members are now involved in the suit. McGowen and Allen also allege they witnessed supervisors forging names on attendance sheets at a mandatory sexual harassment training session.
Kenney said last year, an internal audit determined the city’s policies for investigating sexual harassment claims were unclear and inadequate, but that the department did not act quickly enough to enact the city’s new sexual harassment reforms.
These incidents are not the first that have given the Philadelphia Police Department bad press. In June, Ross took 72 officers off of active duty following the Plain View Project’s release of thousands of racist, sexist and otherwise potentially offensive Facebook posts by officers throughout the country. Many of the officers in the database were from the Philadelphia department. Last month, the commissioner announced he fired 13 of those 17 officers originally placed on administrative duty.
John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Police Union made a statement mourning Ross’s resignation, calling Ross a “shining example” of “hard work and dedication.”
Ross was praised just a week earlier after negotiating the surrender of the suspect of the mass shooting that happened in Philadelphia on Aug. 14.
Philadelphia’s new acting police commissioner is Christine Coulter. She is the first woman to hold the position.