Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Wednesday that he has “never sought retribution on a person, personally or professionally,” a day after he abruptly resigned amid claims in a lawsuit by a police corporal that Ross had ignored her sexual harassment complaint against another officer, in part because the woman had broken off a two-year affair with Ross in 2011.
In remarks to reporters gathered outside Police Headquarters, and in a subsequent phone interview with The Inquirer, Ross said he was not forced out but chose to resign.
While acknowledging that the new litigation was “the catalyst” for his unexpected departure — in part because he felt it would create a “distraction” for the Police Department — Ross also said he spent 14 years in an administrative capacity, filling roles that “after awhile, can wear you down a little bit.”
“Given everything else that we’re dealing with in the city ... I thought it would be a distraction for the department to have to deal with this particular [issue] as it relates to me,” Ross told The Inquirer. “I just thought it was in the best interest of all concerned, the community, the mayor, and the police officers to move on.”
His remarks were the latest development in a story that has shocked the city. Mayor Jim Kenney announced Ross’ resignation in an e-mailed statement late Tuesday, citing new allegations of harassment and discrimination within the Police Department, and saying he did not think the department, under Ross, had done enough to address them.
Ross, 55, declined on Tuesday to address specific allegations in the lawsuit filed by Cpl. Audra McCowan and Patrol Officer Jennifer Allen. In an amended complaint filed Monday, McCowan alleged for the first time that Ross had told her he would seek to prevent her harassment complaints against a male coworker from being addressed “in retribution for breaking off their two-year affair” of 2009-11.
Ross on Wednesday denied seeking retribution against anyone.
“I have never ever gunned for anyone in my 55 years on this earth or my 30-year career,” Ross told The Inquirer. "That’s just the reality. And everyone who knows me knows that’s not my character.”
McCowan and Allen filed their initial discrimination lawsuit against the Police Department in July, claiming they had been sexually harassed and discriminated by colleagues. Ross submitted his resignation letter to Kenney Monday night, the mayor said at a news conference Wednesday at City Hall, after the women had filed their updated version.
Ross, dressed in a blue suit and tie when speaking outside Police Headquarters earlier Wednesday, said he was “lamenting” the fact that he was leaving behind a department in which he had worked for 30 years, and that he did not know what was next, but said: “I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t say fatigue had set in anyway, independent of this issue. And you just have to understand where you are in your space in life.”
During Kenney’s news conference, the mayor said he ultimately agreed that it was the correct decision for Ross to resign, but continued to praise Ross for his performance.
“I don’t want to forget all of the positive things that have happened during his 3½ years," Kenney said. “It’s not a happy day. I think he did a stellar job.”