The Philadelphia Police Department has launched an internal review after a photograph of one its officers with a tattoo resembling a Nazi symbol began circulating online this week.
The photograph appears to show a member of the department’s bike patrol sporting a tattoo on his left forearm of a spread-winged eagle beneath the word “Fatherland.” It was uploaded Wednesday to Facebook on Wednesday by a user who said the snapshot was taken at a protest event during the Democratic National Convention in July and has since been shared widely on social media.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and law enforcement officials both weighed in Thursday as news reports about the officer’s ink and its possible Nazi ties began to appear online.
“I find it incredibly offensive, and I know many others do as well,” Mr. Kenney said in a statement. “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. In this environment — in which open, honest dialogue between citizens and police is paramount — we need to be building trust, not offering messages or displaying images that destroy trust.”
The department does not currently have a tattoo policy, but said an internal review is underway and that it “does not condone anything that can be interpreted as offensive, hateful or discriminatory in any form.”
In the photograph, the officer can be seen wearing a name badge that says “Lichtermann.” Evan Parish Matthews, the Facebook user who first posted the image, said he believes the individual is Officer Ian Hans Lichtermann and has filed a complaint against the officer.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that city payroll records show an officer with a similarly spelled name, Ian Lichterman, is currently employed by the PPD.
Philly Antifa, a local antifascist blog, claims that the officer was previously outed as a member of a neo-Nazi group known as Blood and Honour after hackers breached the websites of several hate groups between 2010 and 2012 and leaked its contents online. Archived copies of the data dump includes information for an Ian Lichterman in Philadelphia.
The president of the city’s police union admitted seeing the tattoo but disputed any Nazi connection.
“I’ve seen it. It’s an eagle. Not a big deal.” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby told the Inquirer in a text message.
“He’s a military veteran, he’s a father, he’s a great cop. On the other arm he has a tattoo of an American flag. Is that offensive? If he had a black panther on his chest or his back or his leg, would that be offensive?” the union boss told a local ABC News affiliate.
The German-American Police Association uses a similar symbol, and the officer was just trying to show his pride, he told the television station.
“And now, he’s being crucified, his family is being crucified. He had to change his phone number over a tattoo that he’s had for a decade? Stop it. Come on,” Mr. McNesby added.
The Inquirer reached Officer Lichterman on his cellphone Thursday but reported that he promptly hung up.