Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey ordered Friday that a uniformed officer be taken off street patrol and that the officer's gun be taken from him after Facebook videos surfaced showing the officer pressuring a motorist to buy tickets for a police union fund-raiser.
In the videos, Officer Matthew Zagursky tells a driver that if he buys tickets to the fund-raiser, Zagursky will not tow his vehicle. The officer also uses a homophobic slur while apparently joking with the man at another point.
Ramsey said he took swift action after being shown the videos at a morning briefing Friday by his chief of patrol, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel.
Ramsey said Zagursky, 32, a nine-year veteran, apparently had done something "illegal" and was an "embarrassment" to the force.
"Nothing he did was right," Ramsey said.
The commissioner said Zagursky had not been suspended and would continue to work pending the outcome of an Internal Affairs probe, which he also ordered Friday.
Friday afternoon, an officer who answered the phone at the 24th District, to which Zagursky is assigned, said the officer was not on duty. He could not be reached for comment. Steve Weiler, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, did not return a reporter's calls.
Details about when the traffic stop occurred and even the identities of the motorist and passenger of the pulled-over vehicle remained unknown, Ramsey said.
Ramsey said investigators would attempt to trace that information electronically, working off the Facebook page, on which two brief videos, taped from within the vehicle, were posted. That page belonged to an account administered by someone with the user name Rob Stay Faded.
In one of the two videos, Zagursky apparently jokes with the motorist about the color of windshield wipers on his vehicle.
"And what's up with the . . . wipers?" he says.
"Breast cancer, man; my grandmom went through it," the driver replies.
"Breast cancer I can understand, but can't you support breast cancer another way?" Zagursky says. "You look like you're a fruitcake. You know, what the hell?
To ensure that no other officers pressure people to buy tickets to the Oct. 10 fund-raiser for the FOP, Ramsey said he sent a note to all members of the force Friday morning.
"We encourage the support of the police and fire Hero Thrill Show," it said, according to Ramsey. "Remember, however, all ticket sales should be totally voluntary, and under no circumstances should someone feel under duress during a ticket exchange."
Here is a transcript of the exchange captured in the other video:
Officer: "You and your friend got any money to buy these Thrill Show tickets? Support your police department? Ten bucks each, man?
"Either you buy these, or I take your car. 'Cause it's unregistered. Ten bucks each, man."
Driver: "I got a couple bucks."
Officer: "Support your police department, man. You got any kids?
Driver: "I do not."
Officer (seemingly to passenger): "You have any kids? You got any sweetheart?"
Driver: "Yeah. I'd rather take my girl than this guy."
Officer: "You don't want to look like two fruitcakes, you know. All right, well, listen, my man, 10 bucks apiece."
Driver: "Pay there?"
Officer: "Nah, nah, nah, you already paid. You got these tickets, man. Go support your police department."