PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – An investigation revealing offensive comments posted on social media by hundreds of Philadelphia police officers got the attention of City Council. A hearing was held Tuesday afternoon but sparks really flew over calls for the acting police commissioner to step down.
A photo from more than 20 years ago shows Acting Philadelphia Police Commissioner Christine Coulter in a T-shirt that some perceive as racist. At least one councilmember had a big problem with Coulter and wants someone in the position who can better relate with the city.
“The trust, faith and confidence of our citizens relies on making a selection that will not further divide our communities,” Councilmember Cindy Bass said. “Thus, I implore you to ask Ms. Coulter to step down immediately and replace her.”
Bass brought up a recently surfaced 1994 photo that shows Coulter wearing a shirt that reads “L.A.P.D. We Treat You Like A King.” Some believe it makes light of the police beating of activist Rodney King.
“It’s inconceivable that she was unaware that the T-shirt referenced the widely-publicized brutal beating of a citizen,” Bass said.
Coulter immediately apologized for wearing the shirt.
“Never made that in my mind that it was a Rodney King shirt. When framed in that reference, absolutely you can see that,” Coulter said.
Coulter used Tuesday’s hearing to also announce several internal changes following the discovery of racist, anti-Muslim and even violent social media posts made by hundreds of officers.
A report published in June by a watchdog group called the Plain View Project highlighted the controversial posts of police officers who work in Philly and in other cities around the country. Some posts were racist, anti-Muslim and even violent.
The researchers identified nearly 330 active duty Philadelphia police officers. So far, 13 have lost their jobs, many more are on desk duty and on Tuesday, we learned nine officers have resigned, upsetting some councilmembers.
But on Tuesday, Coulter said several changes are being made in the department, including increased training.
“We are contracting with an outside provider to begin implementing anti-racist, implicit bias training for every sworn officer in the department. This program will begin this fall,” Coulter said.
Despite the call for her to resign, Coulter has said in the past that she wants to permanently become the city’s top cop.