Black cops sue, claiming racism in Philly narcotics unit

Rochelle Bilal (center), president of the Guardian Civic League, and Brian Mildenberg (right) attorney for a group of African American police officers, level charges of racism against the leadership at the Philadelphia narcotics unit. (

Rochelle Bilal (center), president of the Guardian Civic League, and Brian Mildenberg (right) attorney for a group of African American police officers, level charges of racism against the leadership at the Philadelphia narcotics unit. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Guardian Civic League, which represents about 2,000 black police officers in Philadelphia, has sued the city, the police department and two narcotics supervisors, who they say ordered subordinates to falsify paperwork in drug cases — and then retaliated against officers who refused the order.

Chief Inspector Anthony Boyle and Inspector Raymond Evers allegedly directed officers to “flip” arrestees to “make the drugs go away” by omitting the names, details on drugs, cash or other things seized during an arrest, and/or the specific location of confiscated items, according to the federal lawsuit filed Dec. 1. The purpose: To entice suspects to cooperate and identify bigger suppliers and dealers in the drug business.

The department already has a Confidential Informant Directive allowing officers to obscure such details, but “flipping” circumvents that directive to speed up the process, according to the lawsuit and the plaintiffs’ attorney Brian Mildenberg.

“(Flipping) brings 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,” Mildenberg wrote.

Mildenberg called for a review of all narcotics prosecutions and convictions, which he complained might have been “tainted by racial bias and intentional discrimination.” The officers also are seeking unspecified damages, as well as an end to flipping and retaliation, according to the complaint.

Four black officers — Staff Inspector Debra Frazier, Capt. Laverne Vann, Lt. Anthony Burton and Officer Shamal Bryant — also are named as plaintiffs.

They claim they refused to follow the flipping orders and consequently endured retaliation that included supervisors taking away Burton’s assigned squad car, ordering Vann to undergo bike patrol training even though she didn’t know how to ride a bike, threatening to change Frazier’s office door lock, and denying or ignoring Bryant’s overtime requests, according to the lawsuit.

The officers further claimed that racial discrimination created a hostile workplace. For example, bosses referred to people in communities of color as “scum” and assigned black officers to more dangerous locations and worse shifts than white officers, according to the complaint.

They’re seeking unspecified damages, as well as an end to flipping and retaliation, according to the filing.

Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesman, couldn’t immediately be reached, but the department typically doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit comes three months after the league first went public with their racism allegations.

Boyle and Evers took command of the narcotics unit in March.



GCL Lawsuit (Text)

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