A Philadelphia police lieutenant is under investigation for allegedly using the N-word while on a recorded phone line with a 911 police radio room employee Wednesday night, department officials said.
In an 18-second audio clip of the call obtained by The Inquirer, the lieutenant, a white male, can be heard talking to a woman the department described as a call taker in the police radio room.
While the lead-up to the exchange remains unclear, the commander appeared to be seeking help locating a person or an address.
“Yeah, 516,” the lieutenant said, referring to an address. “I think he lives in a ...”
“Osborne Street?” the call taker asked.
“Yes,” the lieutenant replied.
“It’s a dead cell phone, hold on,” said the call taker.
After a brief pause, the male is heard saying, “F— [N-words].”
Police spokesperson Eric Gripp confirmed that the audio was a phone call to police radio, and said those calls are typically recorded. The call was on a private line, he said — not broadcast over public police radio channels. Gripp said the caller is a lieutenant assigned to the 39th District who has been placed on restricted duty while police investigate.
Police sources identified the officer as Lt. Anthony McFadden, a 32-year veteran of the force who was previously assigned to the Special Victims Unit. McFadden did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.
The police union condemned the officer’s use of a racial slur Thursday in a statement issued by John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. He said such language “has no place not only among our force, but in every workplace.”
“This incident does not reflect the fact that our officers work hard every day to serve our diverse city with integrity and honor,” he said.
The radio exchange came to light Thursday afternoon during a City Council meeting when Councilmember Cherelle Parker said she had received text messages from residents who had heard about the incident, which she quickly condemned.
“The arrogance that it takes to do something like that, the disregard for humanity, and the willingness to embrace that kind of language as second nature, is something that we should continue to have zero tolerance for,” said Parker, who is Black.
Police sources said the scanner clip made the rounds through the department Thursday, and it was circulating on social media.
The police radio dispatch room has contended with a widespread staffing shortage and morale issues during the pandemic. Black people make up the majority of the radio room staff, according to city records.
The investigation into the racial slur comes as the Police Department has tried to rebuild its relationship with communities of color following several years of racial strife. In 2019, 15 officers were fired and dozens more were disciplined for making racist or bigoted Facebook posts that were cataloged by activists in an online database.
And in 2020, the department was criticized for its response to racial justice protests following the police murder of George Floyd. An independent investigation commissioned by the city and a parallel probe conducted by the city controller found that the department’s response was in some cases heavy-handed. Dozens of officers faced complaints, disciplinary actions, and lawsuits.
When a police officer faces a complaint, the department’s Internal Affairs bureau typically investigates and can sustain or reject disciplinary charges against an officer for violations of department policy. Discipline is decided by the Police Board of Inquiry, which is made up of several officers of varying ranks.