A photo taken of a police officer by an activist at a march for racial justice in Philadelphia has sparked controversy, but not for reasons you might imagine. The picture, posted on Facebook on Wednesday night by Evan Parrish Matthews, shows an officer identified as Ian Hans Lichterman. On Lichterman's left forearm is a Nazi Party emblem called a "partileader."
According to Philadelphia anti-fascist activists, Lichterman has long-standing ties to white supremacist groups. They claim that his name was unearthed in hacks as a member of Blood and Honour, an "international network of Neo-Nazi organizations." They also unearthed photos of someone they claim is Lichterman engaging in Nazi reenactments.
Lichterman's identity has not been confirmed by the Philadelphia police, and Complex's attempts to reach the department for comment were not successful. However, internal records do list him as being on the department's payroll, and this blog post from the department lists him as one of the officers who appeared at a 9/11 remembrance event in 2011.
The police department issued a statement about the situation:
The Philadelphia Police Department is aware of the image being displayed and circulated on social media. The post and photograph of the officer with tattoos displayed on his forearms was brought to our attention this morning, and we have forwarded it to internal affairs for review.
Currently, the department does not have a specific policy regarding the wearing /displaying of tattoos; however, 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. 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.
Mayor Jim Kenney also weighed in, calling the tattoo "disturbing" and "offensive."