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Confederate flag on narcotics cop’s car shows racism in unit, union says

Black police union wants investigation into narcotics unit’s leadership.
Philadelphia Guardian Civil League President Rochelle Bilal, center, discusses alleged racism within the police narcotics unit, with NAACP Philly chapter President Rodney Muhammad, left, and attorney Brian Mildenberg, right. (Charles Mostoller)

A Confederate flag spotted on a police officer’s personal vehicle was the last straw for African-American police officers in the narcotics unit who have now gone public alleging a “racially hostile work environment” in the unit.

“They got tired of it,” said Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, the union of black officers in the Philadelphia Police Department, which on Wednesday called for a full investigation of the unit’s leaders and announced a possible civil rights lawsuit. “We believe that a crisis of racial discrimination exists at narcotics.”

Various problems came out after a Confederate flag was discovered on the license plate of one narcotics officer's personal vehicle, which was parked at the narcotics unit on Wissahickon Avenue.

“In response to complaints, the city of Philadelphia has advised the corporal that he may not park his vehicle on city property while displaying a Confederate flag,” Bilal said. “We appreciate this action, but believe that much more is needed. We are very concerned that this corporal may have white supremacist ties, and if so, he should not have a badge.”

The incident spurred six African-American officers in the unit, including the unit’s integrity officer, Staff Inspector Debra Frazier, to contact the League with complaints over the unit’s culture.

Commanding officers allegedly referred to the killing of civilians as “thinning the herd,” advised police to run over people’s toes if they wouldn’t leave a corner and called people in minority communities “scum,” according to the League.

The Philadelphia Police Department declined to comment on the allegations.

Narcotics unit commanding officers also encouraged officers to falsify paperwork in an allegedly improper way after drug possession arrests to aid in flipping suspects into informants, according to the league. African-American police officers who refused such directives were denied overtime and beneficial shifts, the League claimed.

The fact that the corporal “felt comfortable” parking a car with a Confederate flag shows the unit has a culture of discrimination, they added.

Attorney Brian Mildenberg has been retained by the League and the involved officers, and he is currently investigating with an eye toward a potential civil rights lawsuit, he said.

“What if that corporal involved himself in the prosecution of an African-American suspect? And he has a Confederate flag on his vehicle?” he asked. “I certainly would not want to have that person involved.”

And Bilal pulled no punches in identifying who she deems responsible for these problems: the unit’s chief inspector Anthony Boyle and inspector Raymond Evers.

“They need to be removed from the unit today,” she said.