Acting police commissioner aims to keep the job permanently

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s been a long, hectic week, to say the least, for Philadelphia’s first female police commissioner.

After the sudden resignation of Richard Ross last week, acting Commissioner Christine Coulter has been fielding phone calls from District Attorney Larry Krasner, U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, the FBI, and police union President John McNesby, to name a few.

“We all realize — or we should — that we are not going to have any success unless we have a working relationship,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we are going to agree on everything, but we are going to work together to make sure that any of our disagreements don’t impact our ability to serve.”

She’s also spoken with both former commissioners Richard Ross and Charles Ramsey, who offered to help however they can. In the meantime, she’s been meeting with supervisors and setting her own agenda, while also remaining focused on the bigger picture: stopping gun violence and repairing the community’s trust in police.

“Violence is what keeps us up at night. The opioid crisis, which worries us constantly; working and serving the community and building that relationship,” she added. “What should never go wrong is how we talk to people or how we treat people because that is what we have control over.”

Also in the bigger picture: throwing her hat in the ring of permanent replacements for police commissioner.

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Coulter has spent the last 30 years as an officer, but it wasn’t the norm in her native Kensington.

“When I was a young kid, there weren’t women police officers, so it wasn’t anything I ever aspired to do,” she said. 

About 20% of the police department is made up of women. Although she’s never experienced harassment, Coulter is pulling together fellow female officers to get a base understanding of what it’s like to be a cop on the street.

“I am in the process of setting up a round table — it’s female officers — to find out what their days are like to make sure we are not missing anything culturally that could be making them not want to work in this department,” she said. “It’s important for them to be able to share stories if they have them, about challenges they may have different from their male counterparts.”

It’s up to the mayor to decide who will lead the department as the permanent police commissioner. Coulter said she will respect whatever decision he makes.

“I feel like every day is an audition, so I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work in a role, to show how much I care about our department, how much I care about the community.” 

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