Jim Kenney, the mayor of Philadelphia, has released a statement thoroughly condemning the tattoo of a Nazi-style eagle displayed on the forearm of a Philadelphia policeman.
“I find it incredibly offensive, and I know many others do as well,” 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 Philadelphia Police Department opened an investigation into the tattoo, declining to reveal the identity of the officer. They released a statement saying that the matter would be reviewed quickly, but not offering any initial criticism of the tattoo.
“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,” the statement read.
On the Anti-Defamation League’s website, the organization explains the origin and usage of the image that appears to be on the officer’s forearm. After World War II, according to the ADL, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists worldwide appropriated the symbol. In countries where the swastika is prohibited, extremists would occasionally leave the circle blank where the swastika would normally appear.
“One would hope that an individual in that position would understand the significance of what these symbols can mean,” Nancy Baron-Baer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said to the Washington Post. “Even if that’s not what they meant to him. Those symbols, to many individuals within our community … can have a very scary connotation and we don’t want our community members being afraid of police based on something they have inscribed on them.”
The first picture of the policeman began to circulate around the internet after Evan Matthews, a Philadelphia resident, posted the picture, along with an explanation of why he thought the tattoo was referencing Nazism, on Facebook.
Matthews told the Washington Post that his reaction to seeing the tattoo — at a July 26 Black Lives Matter protest — was “visceral.”