Photographs showing a Philadelphia police officer displaying what appear to be tattoos featuring Nazi insignias are circulating on social media, prompting the department to refer the matter to internal affairs.
The photos, posted to Facebook by an account listed under the name of Evan Parish Matthews, were reportedly taken at a Black Lives Matter demonstration held during the Democratic National Convention in July.
The images include what appear to be a classical Nazi eagle with the word “Fatherland” written above it in English. Matthews also notes that, while “difficult to see in the included photos,” an Iron Cross is visible in the eagle’s midsection.
The officer is identified by Matthews as Ian Hans Lichtermann, 39. While the department has not yet confirmed Lichtermann is the officer seen in the photo, his last name is visible on a nametag captured in the photograph. Court records confirm a man by that name has worked for the department since at least 2004, Philly Voice reported.
Matthews didn’t immediately reply to an interview request, but wrote on his Facebook wall that he had filed a formal complaint with the department over the incident, and encouraged others to do the same.
“The idea of being stopped, questioned, arrested, or of even passing this Officer on the street, Nazi insignias inscribed on his body with needle and gun, tattoo in plain sight, in a dominant placement on his body, is, in its most literal and modern sense, terrifying,” Matthews wrote. “If Philadelphia police officer Lichterman was to put you in a chokehold, you would be staring directly at a PPD uniform and the insignia of Adolph Hitler's Nazi party."
The police department responded that it is aware of the image 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," a statement from the department read.
“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 released statement expressing concern.
"The imagery on display in the tweet is disturbing. I find it incredibly offensive, and I know many others do as well,” he said. “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. I understand that the PPD will launch an internal investigation, and that should run its course. 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."
Others on social media — where the images were shared thousands of times Thursday — expressed outrage and concern.