Philadelphia, PA – Just a few weeks after she replaced former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter is in trouble for a racially-insensitive t-shirt she was photographed wearing more than 25 years ago.
Commissioner Coulter apologized Tuesday for having worn a shirt in the 1990s that said “L.A.P.D. We Treat You Like a King,” WPVI reported.
The message was allegedly a reference to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers’ now infamous beating of Rodney King.
Commissioner Coulter told the Philadelphia City Council that she was “profoundly sorry” for having worn the shirt, WPVI reported.
"I sincerely hope that a careless decision that I made over 25 years ago doesn't overshadow the work that I've done,” the commissioner told the council. “I am profoundly sorry for the pain that the shirt and the picture has caused, not to me, but to the city and the communities that we serve.”
She was photographed wearing the shirt circa 1994 while with a group of officers from the 25th District at the Jersey Shore, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Commissioner Coulter claimed she didn’t know what the shirt meant at the time she wore it but apologized for her “careless decision”
The commissioner said she “never even thought of it as anything other than an L.A.P.D. shirt,” and didn’t recognize the reference to the King beating at the time.
Her apology and following remarks were made during a city council meeting that was supposed to be about the problem with insensitive and offensive Facebook messages posted by 330 Philadelphia police officers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass told those assembled for the meeting that she had sent a letter to Mayor Jim Kenney asking him to tell Commissioner Coulter to “step down immediately” in the wake of the t-shirt photo revelation.
“It is inconceivable that she was unaware” of what the shirt meant, Bass said.
Her comments were drowned out by wild sustained applause from the gallery, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The mayor, however, stood behind his newly-appointed acting police commissioner in a statement released later on Tuesday.
Kenney said that “a bad decision” 25 years ago wasn’t going to void her decades of good service to the city, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The mayor said in his statement that the t-shirt “was abhorrent, wearing it was a mistake, and she took responsibility.”
Still, a number of people in attendance continued to call for the acting commissioner’s resignation even after her apology.
"If she truly wanted to make amends and was truly apologetic for what she said, she should have resigned, and then she should have apologized," Philadelphia resident Asa Khalif told WPVI.
The Philadelphia Police Department has been in a state of upheaval for months since the Plain View Project identified 328 Philadelphia police officers and officials who had posted “offensive” content on Facebook, kicking off a massive investigation.
In June, then-Commissioner Ross placed 72 officers and officials on administrative leave while the department hired an outside law firm to review the social media posts identified as problematic by the department.
The commissioner fired 13 officers in July and announced that another 56 of the 72 who were investigated would face discipline ranging from a reprimand to a 30-day unpaid suspension.
In August, Commissioner Ross submitted his resignation after two female officers filed a lawsuit against the Philadelphia police that alleged he ignored racial discrimination and harassment complaints from subordinates, including a woman with whom he had an affair for two years.
“New allegations of sexual harassment as well as gender and racial discrimination among the rank and file have recently been brought to my attention. While those allegations do not accuse Commissioner Ross of harassment, I do ultimately believe his resignation is in the best interest of the Department,” the mayor said in a statement at the time.