Wow. What a week.
To be honest, I’m not even sure where to begin this column. At the time I sat down to write this, I spent most of the morning reading about the demise of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross and just how fast he went from being the smartest guy on the block to being unemployed in literally a week.
For Ross to join the long line of disgraced city officials makes you really question just what is going on with all facets of city government. Everyone praised Ross for his handling of last week’s standoff in Nicetown, getting alleged gunman Maurice Hill to put down his AR-15 assault rifle and walk out of his house with his hands up.
It was an event that some argue would not have gone down that way without Ross’ steering across multiple facets, using all the time in the world (we’re talking about a near nine hour siege, mind you) to ensure that the six officers who were caught in the initial shootout were going to remain the only injuries — on both sides — during his watch.
Fast forward a week and Ross is forced to resign over allegations of sexual misconduct within the force? I mean, the punishment needs to fit impropriety, but the timing here is almost uncanny.
I have my theories, but I’ll keep them to myself.
For me, it’s just disheartening (but sadly unsurprising) that Ross came next in a long line of entrusted people whose morals don’t match the positions they were given.
Seth Williams. Jewell Williams. Chaka Fattah (Jr. and Sr.). John Green. John Dougherty.
I’m sure I’m missing someone, but those are just the names that readily come off the top of the dome of people that, in just in one year’s time, have fallen into the disgraced category. I’m not sure how this is still a thing in today’s society, but one would think that all of these examples would prove that an abuse of power in any nature will come back to bite you in the long run.
I’m not going to go anymore into the accusations against Ross as I didn’t read the entire court docs of the suit brought against him, but I will say that having his face as the leader of a police force that doesn’t have much respect in black and brown communities in Philadelphia provided hope that there could be a bridging of the two.
In the aftermath of last week’s standoff, we did a social experiment on Twitter. We ran a post that read simply, “Shake a cop’s hand today, Philadelphia.” The response we got back was exactly what we expected: people essentially telling us to fuck off.
In our coverage of the event, which you can find on page 10, one Nicetown resident was actually upset over the amount of both regional and national coverage from the media the shootout received. He appeared even more upset at all the heartfelt well wishes for the six police officers that were wounded.
In an interview with PW writer Courtenay Harris Bond, this is what 21-year-old Quadreer Collier surmised about the situation:
“I seen cops dropping and lots of shots. [Honestly?] I thought ‘justice.’ It was somewhat good that cops [were] droppin’ because around here we always droppin’. I’m not saying what [Hill] was doing was right. We just want the same kind of justice. We want our streets to be safe and fair...I get shot, they aren’t looking for my killers. It’s certainly not national news.”
Many in the city saw Ross as helping shift residents’ perceptions of police and for a while, relations seemed to be moving in that direction. Besides a less than shining moment of him taking the side of the police officers that arrested two black men at a Starbucks simply for being black and waiting to pay until a friend arrived, I thought Ross did a good job of handling one of the toughest jobs in the city. It’s upsetting to see that if all this shakes out to be true, he let a lot of people down that looked at him as an example of what one could become if you demanded it for yourself.