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Mayor Kenney addresses the media on Wednesday in City Hall regarding Police Commissioner Richard Ross' resignation. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.
Mayor Kenney addresses the media on Wednesday in City Hall regarding Police Commissioner Richard Ross' resignation. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

America’s best to resigned in a week: Mayor Kenney explains Richard Ross’ surprise departure

The Mayor held a press conference on Wednesday to offer more details on the resignation of a police commissioner recently lauded as a hero.

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A week ago, Mayor Jim Kenney called Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross “the best police commissioner in America,” as he introduced him to speak at a press conference in the aftermath of the shooting in North Philadelphia that left six officers wounded.

Today, Kenney, in the same room where he lauded Ross’ leadership last week, explained to the media why he abruptly announced his resignation on Tuesday afternoon.

It all started Monday, when a lawsuit was filed by two female police officers, that alleged Ross and a number of other police higher ups failed to adequately deal with their complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination within the department.

Kenney said upon hearing of the lawsuit, Ross submitted his resignation on Monday night. The two reconvened for another phone call on Tuesday to confirm the departure.

“We both agreed it was the best course of action for the department at this particular time,” said Kenney. 

One of the officers, Audra McCowan, alleged Ross refused to deal with her complaints of repeated sexual harassment by a supervisor because she cut off a two-year affair with him in 2011.

The other claim detailed on the court filing from officer Jennifer Allen, alleges she was shamed for breast-feeding during work hours.

Both Allen and McCowan have more than 15 years experience in the Philadelphia Police Department. McCowan is a sergeant and Allen is a corporal.

Kenney couldn’t comment on the pending litigation, but said he was “sad to see Ross go,” considering the work he did the week prior.

“It’s a hard job. It’s a stressful job,” said Kenney. “You’re never ever perfect.”

Despite that, Kenney celebrated the work of those Ross brought in and expressed confidence in the future of the department.

“The people he’s promoted are top notch people, and they’ll continue to try to live up to that even with our faults and with our flaws,” he said.

The lawsuit Ross and others face came after a recommendation from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is the newest of many scandals to recently rock the PPD. 

In June, the Plainview Project, a team of attorneys in Philadelphia, published a database of racist Facebook posts from police officers across the country. Members of PPD were heavily featured and it led to 72 officers being removed from street duty and seven resignations.

Also named in Ross’ lawsuit is his replacement, Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter. She also appeared on Wednesday alongside the Mayor and the city’s Managing Director, Brian Abernathy.

As the first woman to hold the position in the history of the department, Coulter acknowledged the different responsibilities of her new role and expressed gratitude for her time in the PPD.  

“I have always been honored as both a woman and a police officer to serve this city,” she said. 

In regards to the police department’s policies towards sexual harassment and its reporting, both Kenney and Abernathy cited required sexual harassment training and mentioned a written policy for reporting it, but failed to answer immediate questions about either’s effectiveness. 

Coulter will remain the acting commissioner until a replacement is found through a local and national search that Kenney said “will begin shortly.”

“We’re seeking a commissioner who can garner respect in the community and rank and file, just as Richard Ross did,” said Kenney.

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