The Philadelphia Police have a Nazi problem. According to a photo making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, one of its officers has an apparent Nazi tattoo on his left forearm.
The tattoo features the word “Fatherland,” with an eagle symbol underneath. The symbol has been used for centuries by Germans, but this particular tattoo hews closely to the image of the Eagle used by Germany’s Nazi party.
Over the last several hours, Mayor Jim Kenney has condemned the tattoo, and Philly police issued a statement that they’re launching an investigation. The police union has downplayed it. Here’s everything we know about the officer’s tattoo and what’s being done about it.
Why we know about this
Facebook and Twitter. The photo was first posted Wednesday night on Facebook by a man named Evan Parish Matthews, who added that he took the photo during a protest during the Democratic National Convention. That post has since been shared nearly 5,000 times.
The photo was also tweeted out by Mindy Isser, a Point Breeze resident, and she was retweeted 4,500 times and liked another 3,700 times.
Who he is
He’s gotten an award. According to Isser’s tweet and the Facebook posting from Matthews, the officer is Ian Hans Lichtermann. The name Lichtermann also appears on the officer’s badge in the picture.
Lichtermann was named Officer of the Month in October 2014, according to the Northeast Times (via Philly Mag). Other reports suggested the officer’s Instagram and Flickr pages may have been recently shut down. Police in the 2nd District (and HQ) did not respond to requests from Billy Penn to confirm the officer’s identity.
While we don’t know much about the officer in question, it does appear he once posed with… Philly Jesus?
What he says about it
Nothing. The Inquirer reached Lichtermann on his cell phone, and he hung up.
What the police say
He hasn’t broken any rules, because there aren’t any. The Philadelphia Police Department released a statement saying its Internal Affairs Unit has launched an investigation. While the department doesn’t have a policy on tattoos, it wrote on its official Facebook page today that “the department will quickly move to assess and determine the appropriate policy moving forward.”
“The Department does not condone anything that can be interpreted as offensive, hateful or discriminatory in any form,” the statement continued. “This is a very sensitive topic for both the citizens that we serve as well as the officers providing service to the public. We must ensure that all constitutional rights are adhered to while at the same time ensuring public safety and public trust aren’t negatively impacted.”
What the mayor says
He’s not thrilled. Mayor Jim Kenney released a statement today calling the apparent Nazi imagery “disturbing.”
“I find it incredibly offensive,” he said in the statement, “and I know many others do as well. This image is particularly offensive to our WWII veterans who fought valiantly to free Europe from Nazi Germany, as well as all victims of Nazi atrocities.”
Kenney also reiterated that police have launched an internal investigation into the matter, and and wrote on Twitter: “Hate imagery IS a big deal, and the City is very concerned about all forms of it.”
What the police union says
They’re standing by their man. John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, told the Inquirer: “I’ve seen it. It’s an Eagle. Not a big deal.” Before Kenney’s statement was released, McNesby texted the reporter: “City not concerned and neither are we… I see people with panthers on their arm. Doesn’t mean they are black panthers. People with crosses on arms doesn’t mean they dislike any other religion.”