A Philadelphia police officer is under investigation after photos showing alleged Nazi-themed tattoos popped up on social media, authorities said.
In the photo circulated on social media by activists Wednesday, an officer identified as Ian Hans Lichtermann is seen standing by his bike, wearing a short sleeve uniform shirt that exposes the tattoos on his forearms.
On his left arm is the word “Fatherland,” above a tattoo of a spread-winged eagle resembling a symbol used by the Nazis known as the Parteiadler.
Distinct from the Reichsadler, an eagle looking over its right shoulder that was used to symbolize Germany since medieval times, the Parteiadler looks to the left..
Lichtermann’s right arm displayed an assault rifle over an American flag and the slogan “For God and Country,” a motto used by many military regiments.
The picture is said to have been taken on July 26 at a Black Resistance March held during the Democratic National Convention.
“Officer Lichtermann was part of a line of nearly one hundred police officers who were blocking entrance to a major city intersection,” Evan Parish Matthews wrote when he posted the photo, which had been shared nearly 7,500 times by Friday afternoon.
The Philadelphia Police Department said its internal affairs unit was reviewing the photo, but noted the department does not have a tattoo policy.
“… [H]owever, the department will quickly move to assess and determine the appropriate policy moving forward,” PPD wrote in a statement.
“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.”
John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the local law enforcement union, defended the tattoo to The Philadelphia Inquirer, saying: “I've seen it. It's an eagle. Not a big deal.”
But Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney did not share McNesby's view, calling the tattoo “incredibly offensive.”
"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,” Kenney said in a statement.
Many on social media have echoed Kenney’s sentiments, taking to the police department’s Facebook page to call for Lichtermann’s ouster.
“The Philadelphia Police Department cannot, in good conscience, employ an office with such a tattoo. If this man is a white supremacist (and with that tattoo, he likely is), then that means his beliefs are rooted in the destruction of the people he's sworn to serve. It's an egregious conflict of interest,” one person wrote.
“I implore you to handle this with all the prudence that it deserves. White supremacists have been allowed to operate with impunity in police departments for far too long. Philadelphia's citizens deserve better,” another commented.
Lichtermann has served in the department since May 2003 and earns about $72,000 annually, according to reports.
He reportedly hung up on The Philadelphia Inquirer when the newspaper reached out for comment.