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Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Abruptly Resigns

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speaking during a news conference in Philadelphia on July 18. He abruptly resigned Tuesday.
Matt Rourke
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speaking during a news conference in Philadelphia on July 18. He abruptly resigned Tuesday.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced the abrupt resignation of his city's police commissioner Richard Ross Tuesday amid reports of sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination within the police department.

Calling himself "disappointed," Kenney, in a statement, said Ross has 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," Kenney added. "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 said that the city recently had implemented a new sexual harassment prevention policy and other reforms, but he suggested that something had gone awry.

"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 move appears to stem from complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a subsequent lawsuit by two female officers, Cpl. Audra McCowan and Patrol Officer Jennifer Allen. They alleged they were subjected to "continuous and on-going" sexual harassment and discrimination from within the department.

McCowan is black and Allen is black and Hispanic, according to their complaint as cited by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The mayor's spokesperson, Deana Gamble, told the Inquirer, "According to the claims, Commissioner Ross was aware of the alleged harassment," adding: "Commissioner Ross failed to act adequately after learning about the alleged harassment."

Ross joined the department as a patrolman in 1989 and worked his way up through the Homicide Unit and Internal Affairs. He was named a deputy commissioner in 2005 and was appointed Police Commissioner in 2016.

Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter was named Acting Commissioner while the city seeks Ross's replacement.

As the Inquirerreported:

"The resignation came less than a week after Ross helped negotiate the surrender of a gunman accused of shooting six city cops during a 7½-hour standoff last Wednesday in Tioga. At a news conference days later, Kenney said Ross was the best police commissioner in the nation."

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Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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