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Controversial Philly police inspector loses oversight of SVU

Police Inspector Anthony Washington was given oversight of the Special Victims Unit, even though he'd been accused of sexual harassment in the past.

File photo: Philadelphia Police Inspector Anthony Washington, (center), meeting in 2013 with a prosecutor and 17th District officers on the Focused Deterrence program.
File photo: Philadelphia Police Inspector Anthony Washington, (center), meeting in 2013 with a prosecutor and 17th District officers on the Focused Deterrence program.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

In April, then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross faced heated questions about one of his staffing decisions. Amid a raft of transfers and promotions made several months earlier, Ross had given Inspector Anthony Washington oversight of the Special Victims Unit.

Washington had been accused in the past of sexually harassing four female police officers and a Temple University student. Advocates who work on behalf of sexual-assault victims were outraged, and complained that they’d been kept in the dark about the move. But Ross dismissed any concerns about Washington, arguing that no complaint filed against the inspector had ever been sustained, and expressed confidence in his ability to do the job.

Things change.

On Friday, the Police Department quietly removed SVU from the list of divisions that fall under Washington’s command.

The revocation came just a day after Chief Inspector Carl Holmes was charged by District Attorney Larry Krasner with sexually assaulting three female police officers between 2004 and 2007, allegations that had been leveled publicly before, but had never led to criminal charges.

Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesperson, said the Washington move was “one of several current and pending changes to the department’s organizational structure.”

The extent of those changes is unclear; Kinebrew declined to answer additional questions from The Inquirer, or to make acting Commissioner Christine M. Coulter available for an interview.

Monique Howard, executive director of Women Organized Against Rape, said it was problematic that Washington had continued to receive promotions even after the Police Department became aware that female officers had accused him of misconduct.

“I think it just fits with what goes on in patriarchal-type leadership organizations like policing. You just continue to promote them,” Howard said.

“You’re pitting blue against blue. And the male always comes out the victor, and not the victim. But with due diligence on the part of victims, justice prevails. It’s just unfortunate that it takes so long."

Coulter has run the department since the August resignation of Ross, who was accused in a lawsuit by a female officer, Audra McCowan, of retaliating against her for ending an affair with him. Ross has denied her allegations.

Ross’ resignation came as a surprise, as did Holmes’ arrest, which followed a grand jury investigation. According to court records, Holmes, 54, posted 10% of his $850,000 bail Friday, and is scheduled to face a preliminary hearing on Nov. 14. Coulter suspended him from the force for 30 days with the intent to dismiss.

The stories about Washington’s alleged harassment of multiple female cops, and a Temple student named Wendy Ducksworth, were first reported in 2012 as part of a Daily News series on police commanders who had been accused of misconduct, but continued to rise up through the department.

Ducksworth met Washington in 2006 at Nicetown’s 39th District, as part of a school project. She claimed that Washington ogled her and turned their conversation sexual, asking her about the sexiest thing she’d ever done.

She filed a complaint against Washington with Internal Affairs. It was not sustained.

“I was shocked, because you don’t expect a professional public servant to act like that,” Ducksworth said earlier this year.

Between 2011 and 2014, the city spent $198,000 to settle five lawsuits that were filed against Washington over allegations that included workplace harassment, civil rights violations, and physical abuse.

Female officers have long contended that the department is plagued by a culture that protects and rewards harassers, and punishes victims who object to the treatment they receive in the workplace.

Coulter, in the aftermath of Holmes’ arrest, said that most cops “want to do a great job for our public.”

Staff writer Barbara Laker contributed to this article.