Philly detective under review after racially charged note emerges

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross says language in the note left taped over a work station's trash can was

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross says language in the note left taped over a work station's trash can was "deeply concerning." (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY file)

A Philadelphia police detective is under internal investigation over an angry letter about discarded rib bones that officials say contained racially charged language, the police commissioner said Tuesday.

Commissioner Richard Ross said that the language in the note left taped over a work station’s trash can was “deeply concerning.”

Internal Affairs is investigating, and the 22-year veteran has been removed from street duty, said Ross. The detective has a “virtually clean jacket,” he said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a copy of the letter, provided by the Guardian Civic League, which represents black officers, calls an unnamed colleague a “filthy savage” and “a grotesque, primal animal.”

“I am not in any manner trying to embarrass you, just the opposite; I’m here to offer my guidance and assistance in helping you make the difficult transition from a grotesque, primal animal to tolerable co-worker,” it said, according to The Inquirer.

Ross said it was unclear whether the detective knew which person he was addressing, and the language “did not in any way fit the offense” and seemed almost intended for shock value.

“Wow. I mean, wow was my first response,” Ross said at a Tuesday news conference.

Officers are already undergoing racial sensitivity training and inherent bias training, but Ross said the letter makes him think some racial perceptions within the department might need to be addressed.

“My second response was concern not just for what I’m reading but for the men and women throughout the entire organization and how they can be perceived,” he said.

“But it’s because of some of the language that is in here some of which historically has reference to African-Americans in particular — that’s why it’s deeply concerning,” Ross said.

Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, told The Inquirer anyone making such statements “shouldn’t be on the job.” About eight months ago the organization along with four black narcotics officers sued the city and department alleging racial discrimination within the narcotics unit.

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, called the letter “ridiculous” and added “If you have a problem with somebody . you should address it personally.”

WHYY’s Bobby Allyn contributed to this report.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal