Four African American narcotics officers and the Guardian Civic League, which represents black police officers, have filed a federal lawsuit against Philadelphia, its police department and two narcotics supervisors claiming the officers are victims of workplace racial discrimination and retaliation for refusing to falsify drug-arrest paperwork.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and an end to the alleged discrimination and retaliation, comes three months after the officers' attorney and civic league officials first made the allegations public during a news conference.
"Commanding officers have harassed and encouraged harassment and disrespect of African American police officers to the point where we believe that a crisis of racial discrimination exists at Narcotics," Rochelle Bilal, civic league president, said in September.
Police Department spokesman Capt. Sekou Kinebrew was not at work Friday and no one else was available to comment on the suit, a department spokesman said. The officers have previously not responded to requests for comment on the allegations.
The four-count complaint names Chief Inspector for the Narcotics Bureau Anthony Boyle and Inspector for the Narcotics Bureau Raymond Evers as the supervisors who ordered the plaintiffs to falsify drug reports through a practice known as "flipping," and who retaliated against them for refusing to do so.
Through flipping, commanding officers expect and require officers to obscure the source of recovered drugs if a suspect who has been arrested is willing to cooperate and provide information on other crimes, the suit states.
The practice circumvents the approved department policy pertaining to the use of confidential informants, while bringing "into question the integrity of evidence, validity of prosecutions, and credibility of those narcotics officers who sign false receipts, and further puts arrestees' constitutional rights at serious risk," the suit states.
The plaintiffs, Staff Inspector Debra Frazier, Capt. Laverne Vann, Lt. Anthony Burton and Officer Shamal Bryant, were each punished by Boyle and Evers for refusing to engage in flipping, according to the suit.
According to the suit: Frazier, the highest-ranking African American officer in narcotics, has been "shunned and excluded" from proper participation in the leadership of the office, and has been threatened that her office door locks could be changed without explanation. Vann was ordered to undergo bike training, which a captain has never been required to do, even after informing her commanders that she did not know how to ride a bike.
During training, she fell and sustained injuries for which she was hospitalized for several days. Burton was falsely accused of misusing his squad car which was taken from him and given to a more junior officer. Bryant's overtime requests have been ignored and she has been harassed with false accusations of disciplinary violations.
The suit also alleges that Boyle and Evers have fostered a racially-hostile work environment by allowing a white corporal to park his Confederate-flag-decorated car on city property; by referring to minorities as "scum" and referring to the killing of such persons as "thinning the herd;" and by assigning black officers to more dangerous locations and less favorable assignments while giving more favorable shifts and safer locations to white officers.
The suit alleges that the commanding officers have also subjected black supervisors to terms and conditions of employment that are different from those of similarly situated white supervisors.