A Philadelphia police officer has been put on desk duty after he was quoted spouting his disgust for the black residents in the community he patrolled.
During a ride-along with a Temple University senior journalism student, the officer, William Thrasher, who is white, was quoted as calling the residents of the predominantly black 22d District "animals" and the violence that happens there "typical n- s-" or "TNS."
"If what's alleged is true," said Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, "the commissioner takes comments like that very, very seriously, and he's going to take appropriate action. We can't tolerate that."
The Police Department's Internal Affairs unit is investigating Thrasher's comments, Vanore said, which includes interviewing the student reporter, Shannon McDonald, and any witnesses.
Leaders of the Guardian Civic League, an organization of black Philadelphia police officers, met yesterday and called for Thrasher's firing.
"We find the actions depicted in this article deplorable," said Rochelle Bilal, the league's president, who grew up in North Philadelphia. "If you can label a neighborhood of people as being disgusting to you, and that they act like animals, I suggest that if that's the way he feels, he needs to find a new career."
Thrasher, 24, joined the Police Department in February 2007. He was assigned to the 22d District, which runs from Montgomery to Lehigh Avenues, between 10th and 33d Streets.
The article about him was published in early February for the university's urban multimedia reporting lab.
"Obviously, anytime a police officer is using such language and acting that way, it's going to be surprising and disappointing to people," said McDonald. "They're the ones out there protecting you, and you want to hold them to a higher standard. As far as the accuracy of the story, it's 100 percent accurate."
Chris Harper, an associate journalism professor who edited the article, backed McDonald. "She's a good reporter," he said. "We stand by this story."
McDonald quoted Thrasher on tensions in the community between police and residents, with Thrasher saying: "People hate us here. They spit at us."
At one point during a three-hour, midday patrol-car ride together in January, Thrasher reportedly pointed out recent homicide scenes, three of which involved multiple gunshots.
"People in this neighborhood don't care about each other," Thrasher was quoted as saying. "They'll shoot each other for drugs, for money, for bulls-. All they care about is their reputation. They want to look tough."
After Thrasher responded to a call about an argument, he reportedly dismissed the incident to his lieutenant as "TNS. Typical n- s-."
At another scene, where a man was shot in the back of the head by his daughter's boyfriend, Thrasher said: "These people are . . . disgusting. It's like they're animals."
Later in the article, Thrasher defended his views, and was quoted as saying: "I'm not racist. I work with black people every day. They have jobs, they support their families, [and] they're good people. Most of the people who live in this area are bad people. And they happen to be black."
Calls to Thrasher's home went unanswered.
McDonald said she had received harassing e-mails over the article, but had refused to have it removed from the school's Web site.
"That would be an admission of guilt," she said. "I did my job."