By Kristen Johanson


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia police officer is under an internal affairs investigation, after several pictures circulated social media, of questionable tattoos on his forearms.

One of the tattoos appears to be similar to a Nazi-style eagle with the word ‘Fatherland’ written above.

The other is of a German military-style iron cross.

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“This individual did not have the swastika in the eagle’s claws,” says Nancy Baron-Baer with the Anti-Defamation League in Philadelphia.

“Without knowing more, one has to be very careful before they interpret the Iron Cross as being a hate symbol.”

Baron-Baer says the images are alarming, and a full investigation is necessary, because police officers interact with people of all ethnicities, religions and genders. She says they have reached out to the department for a sit-down discussion.

“When an individual is approached by a law enforcement officer, and they see these symbols on their arm, it would be hard for them to have any respect for the individual that they are facing,” she says.

Police officials say the department does not have a specific policy on tattoos, but they may be considering one soon.

The Philadelphia Police Department went on to say: “The Department does not condone anything that can be interpreted as offensive, hateful or discriminatory in any form. This is a very sensitive topic for both the citizens that we serve as well as the officers providing service to the public. We must ensure that all constitutional rights are adhered to while at the same time ensuring public safety and public trust aren’t negatively impacted.”

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Mayor Jim Kenney also released the following statement: “The imagery on display in the tweet is disturbing. I find it incredibly offensive, and I know many others do as well. This image is particularly offensive to our WWII veterans who fought valiantly to free Europe from Nazi Germany, as well as all victims of Nazi atrocities. I understand that the PPD will launch an internal investigation, and that should run its course. In this environment — in which open, honest dialogue between citizens and police is paramount – we need to be building trust, not offering messages or displaying images that destroy trust.”

A message left to the President of Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police was not immediately returned.

A photo of a Philadelphia police officer with what some describe as a Nazi style tattoo has created strong reactions in some.

The photo was reportedly originally posted by Evan Parish Matthews on Facebook. Matthews described the tattoo as the official insignia of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party.