PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In a shocking move, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Tuesday that Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has resigned. His resignation comes after new allegations of sexual harassment “among the rank and file” were brought to the mayor’s attention.
“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 said in a statement.
Ross was not named in the allegations.
Sources tell CBS3 that Ross had received allegations from at least two women regarding gender and race discrimination and the women were disappointed at how the allegations were handled.
A federal civil lawsuit obtained by CBS3 names Ross as a defendant, stating that he was told about the sexual harassment allegations but did nothing to stop the behavior.
The lawsuit, filed by two Philadelphia police officers last week, claims both women were sexually harassed and discriminated against and their reports to superiors — including Ross — went without resolve.
Cpl. Audra McCowan, one of the plaintiffs, says she texted and called Ross in February to inform him of a male officer who was sexually harassed her. The lawsuit alleges Ross declined to act on her report, texting back, “So why don’t you just order his dumb ass to go sit down and get out of your face ‘Officer.'”
McCowan texted back, “Think about how you would feel if it was your daughter. Would it matter if it was someone that works for her or not? If she told the person to repeatedly stop, that doesn’t matter?”
During the conversations, Ross allegedly stated that he was going to “school” McCowan on sexual harassment and implied that he was upset with her and would not act on her complaints in retribution for breaking off an affair she and Ross had from 2009 to 2011, according to the lawsuit.
Patrol Officer Jennifer Allen was also listed as a plaintiff in the suit. She claims she was sexually harassed and groped by a superior on multiple occasions.
The lawsuit also states that Allen, while working at the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center after returning from maternity leave, had her breast milk stolen from a refrigerator in the cafeteria.
Allen says she notified a superior, who failed to take action, and later made jokes about her milk being stolen and made comments about “wanting chocolate milk” or “needing milk.”
The president of Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police spoke with KYW Radio Tuesday evening, before the complaint was made public.
“It’s not a good day for the city when the police commissioner resigns, especially one who’s got a pretty good working relationship with us and got along well with the community,” John McNesby said.
Sources say Ross first offered his resignation on Sunday night but Kenney did not accept it. Sources say Kenney was upset over the resignation and told city leaders that Ross has carried the city for three years.
…the Mayor felt they should be handled. A press conference with the mayor is scheduled for late tomorrow morning.
— Greg Argos (@GregArgosCBS3) August 20, 2019
In a statement, Kenney said the city implemented a new sexual harassment prevention policy and that the police department did not take the steps to “address the underlying cultural issues that too often negatively impact women — especially women of color.”
“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,” Kenney said.
Kenney said he’s “disappointed” in Ross’ resignation because “he’s been a terrific asset to the Police Department and the City as a whole.” He also thanked Ross for his years of service to the city.
“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,” Kenney said.
The mayor named Christine Coulter, the department’s deputy commissioner, as acting commissioner during the search for a replacement. Coulter has nearly 30 years of law enforcement service.
Coulter was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The last few months of Ross’ three-year tenure has been marred by violence in the city and misconduct in the department.
Following last week’s shooting and standoff that left six Philadelphia police officers injured, Kenney said Ross was “the best police commissioner in America.”
Ross also recently fired several officers for posting racist comments on social media.
There is no word on when the search for an official replacement will begin.
Kenney will hold a news conference late Wednesday morning.
CBS3’s Kimberly Davis contributed to this reports.