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Philadelphia police commissioner abruptly resigns amid multiple scandals

The Philadelphia mayor said Tuesday he believes the change in leadership will help reform long-standing issues of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination.

Philadelphia's embattled police commissioner abruptly resigned Tuesday after weeks of negative headlines for his department and what the mayor said were new allegations of misconduct among members of the Philly PD.

Mayor Jim Kenney, who called Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. a "terrific asset" to the city, mentioned accusations of sexual harassment in the department in a statement announcing the commissioner's departure.

“New allegations of sexual harassment as well as gender and racial discrimination among the rank and file have recently been brought to my attention," Kenney said Tuesday. "While those allegations do not accuse Commissioner Ross of harassment, I do ultimately believe his resignation is in the best interest of the Department."

Ross submitted his resignation Tuesday, effective immediately, two months after 72 officers were placed on leave for making racist and homophobic Facebook comments, revealed on an online database called the Plain View Project in June. At least 13 of those officers were expected to be fired, according to an NBC News report in July.

Despite receiving the mayor's praise, Ross has been the face of the scandal-plagued department. In addition to the officers placed on leave for their social media posts, 10 police recruits resigned in June after they tried to cheat on an open-book exam.

An internal investigation was launched and before it concluded, the 10 recruits resigned. The test was one of many administered during the training period at the Police Academy in Northeast Philadelphia.

Rapper Meek Mill had a 2008 gun conviction against him overturned in July after a judge accused the Philadelphia officer, Reginald Graham, of allegedly engaging in criminal conduct.

Mill and his legal team have been fighting to overturn the conviction since 2017 when the rapper was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his probation.

He spent five months in prison before the state Supreme Court ordered him to be released in April 2018 after prosecutors said there were "credibility issues" with Graham, who testified against the rapper in the 2008 case.

Graham has since resigned from the force.

The department has faced scrutiny long before this last summer of scandal. In March last year, Philadelphia County District Attorney Larry Krasner placed 29 officers on a "do-not-call list" — meaning they could not be considered credible witnesses at trials.

Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter will act as the acting commissioner until a replacement can be found for Ross, who was appointed in 2016, according to the mayor's release.

“I am grateful for Commissioner Ross’ many years of dedicated service to our City, and the many reforms he brought to the Department," Kenney said. "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."

The president for the Philadelphia chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement Thursday that the police union will miss Ross' "passion and guidance for this great police department."

"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," FOP President John 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."