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Philadelphia police head resigns over harassment and bias allegations in department

Philadelphia Police Officer Ambushed And Shot At Close Range
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross seen Jan. 8, 2016. Getty

The police commissioner of Philadelphia is resigning over new allegations of sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination against others in the department, the mayor announced Tuesday

Commissioner Richard Ross has been a terrific asset to the police department and the city, Mayor Jim Kenney said in a news release, and he's disappointed to lose him. But in light of the new allegations, Ross' "resignation is in the best interest of the department."

There were scant details about the allegations against others in the department, but Kenney spokeswoman Deana Gamble told The Philadelphia Inquirer that a corporal and patrol officer made allegations against several department employees and claimed Ross knew about the alleged harassment.

Kenney's statement referred to a sexual harassment prevention policy and efforts to prevent workplace discrimination and harassment that were implemented a year ago. "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," Kenney said.

Ross, who is black and joined the department in 1989, has served as commissioner since January 2016. He did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The mayor said an unspecified independent entity will investigate the recent allegations and recommend how to address discrimination and harassment within the police agency.

Just last week, Kenney called Ross the best police commissioner in America after a gunman's long standoff with police.

Kenney named Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter to serve as acting commissioner during a search for Ross' replacement.

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke told CBS Philadelphia he's "deeply saddened" by Ross' resignation.

"Rich Ross is an excellent officer and commander of our city's police force — most recently shown in his handling of last week's crisis in North Philadelphia, where he helped negotiate the surrender of the gunman charged with shooting six officers and subjecting a whole neighborhood to trauma."

Philadelphia police union president John McNesby also reacted to Tuesday's announcement.

"Commissioner Ross has served the rank and file officers and the residents of this city with honor and respect over his three-decade tenure with the department," McNesby said. "The commissioner has served in every rank of the department and is a shining example that hard work and dedication can lead you to the top of your profession. We will miss his passion and guidance for this great police department."

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