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She was ‘forced to resign’ after her allegations brought down Philly’s police commissioner | Jenice Armstrong

In her resignation letter dated Oct. 2, Audra McCowan wrote: “I can no longer tolerate the sex and race discrimination, hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliation that I have endured while while working there.”

Former police commissioner Richard Ross following his resignation in August.
Former police commissioner Richard Ross following his resignation in August.Read moreJessica Griffin / Staff Photographer

Of course she quit.

I mean, really.

Audra McCowan is the corporal who filed a lawsuit this summer claiming that former Police Commissioner Richard Ross had ignored her sexual-harassment complaint against another officer “in retribution” for breaking off their two-year affair.

Ross abruptly resigned in the wake of the stunning allegation, and later said he had “never sought retribution on a person, personally or professionally.” He has not publicly denied McCowan’s claim that the two had been romantically involved.

McCowan’s last day was Wednesday. Her lawyer, Ian M. Bryson, told me in a text message that she had been “forced to resign.”

In her resignation letter dated Oct. 2, McCowan wrote: “Effective immediately, I am resigning from my employment with the Philadelphia Police Department. I can no longer tolerate the sex and race discrimination, hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliation that I have endured while working there.”

She added, “My complaints of discrimination have fallen on deaf ears — not only has it continued, but I have been retaliated against for reporting it. My physical and mental health are failing as a result. Thank you for understanding.”

Her brave decision to speak out against sexual harassment left McCowan, a 15-year veteran on the force, in a really tough spot.

Think about it.

It was her word against that of an immensely popular former police commissioner. Only days earlier, Mayor Jim Kenney had called him “the best police commissioner in America” after his handling of a nearly eight-hour standoff in the city’s Tioga-Nicetown area that left six officers wounded.

Ross’ abrupt resignation reportedly caught her by surprise. Her world must have been crazy after that with reporters clamoring for her attention, not to mention the animosity directed her way by Ross’ supporters.

“She was out of work for 12 weeks by order of her doctor due to the impact the work environment has had on her health,” Bryson wrote. "She’s medically unable to continue working there, no reasonable person would be able to stay.”

Taking a stand the way she did has really cost her. She has lost her $85,000 annual salary and a job she’s held since she was just 20 years old. McCowan was promoted to corporal last year.

A police spokesperson said in an email Thursday, “The department will not be issuing a comment in reference to Cpl. Audra McCowan.”

McCowan and Officer Jennifer Allen had both claimed in the suit that they had faced years of sexual harassment at the Philadelphia Police Department, and were penalized when they complained.

The lawsuit originally was filed in late July, but an amended version filed in August references the alleged affair between McCowan and Ross, which reportedly lasted from 2009 to 2011.

According to the lawsuit, in 2015 while assigned to the Police Academy, McCowan claims, an officer touched her inappropriately and said things to her such as, “You’re giving me action in my pants” and “Bend over like that again.”

She also describes interactions with another officer who once called her at home and said, “You know I have a crush on you?” She complained to a supervisor, but the officer’s numerous advances reportedly continued, sometimes in the presence of his supervisors. According to the suit, he once even tried to remove her wedding ring.

When she complained to Ross via text in early to mid-February 2019, he reportedly responded, “So why don’t you just order his dumb ass to go sit down and get out of your face?” According to the suit, Ross said he was going to “school” her about sexual harassment and indicated he was still upset about her ending their affair.

If the allegations are true, McCowan was in a Sophie’s Choice-type dilemma: She could continue to suffer or she could resign. For the good of her health, it was for the best.