Deputy police commissioner faces sex-harrassment suit

Posted: May 01, 2012

THIS COULD get ugly.

Debra Frazier, a veteran Philadelphia police captain, recently filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city and one of the department’s top cops, Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn.

The lawsuit alleges that Blackburn sexually harassed Frazier for almost three years, and then retaliated against her when she rebuffed his advances.

Frazier claims that Blackburn began calling her and sending her text messages on an almost daily basis in June 2008, asking her about her personal life and complaining about how lonely he was.

He soon began demanding “sex or female companionship for favorable treatment” at work, the lawsuit alleges. The not-so-subtle calls and texts eventually escalated into stalking, the suit says.

At a gym where both Blackburn and Frazier were members, the deputy commissioner “continuously stared at [Frazier], her buttocks, and did so as [she] was in the company of others,” according to the lawsuit.

Frazier, 49, claims that she made formal and informal complaints to the Police Department’s top brass about being harassed, and then watched as Blackburn allegedly turned vindictive — and, in one instance, threatening.

Frazier was on her way to her car in a parking lot outside the gym one day when she claims that Blackburn said, “I should run you over,” as he drove past her, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on March 28 by Frazier’s attorney, Brian Puricelli.

Two years after the alleged harassment started, Frazier filed a complaint with the Police Department’s Equal Employment Opporunity Unit and complained to Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president John McNesby.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Friday that the investigaion didn’t sustain Frazier’s allegations because there were no witnesses who could confirm her claims.

McNesby said he remembered speaking with Frazier several years ago about her allegations against Blackburn, but noted that the union wasn’t privy to the details of the EEO unit’s inquiry.

“We get calls every day on issues like this,” he said.

After Frazier, who works in a plainclothes narcotics unit, filed the complaint, Blackburn began ordering her to wear her full uniform to work, telling her that she “look[s] cute in my uniform,” the lawsuit alleges.

Frazier, who is black, also claims that Blackburn began requiring her to attend meetings that her fellow commanders, who were white males, did not have to.

He also allegedly barred her from her office, and asked her uncomfortable questions about her Muslim faith.

Blackburn, who is in charge of Major Investigations — an umbrella over units including Homicide, Narcotics and Forensic Sciences — did not respond to a request for comment.

He did receive some verbal backing on Friday from Ramsey, who promoted Blackburn from chief inspector to deputy commissioner in 2008.

“I have full confidence in Deputy Commissioner Blackburn in terms of his abilities to lead and so forth,” Ramsey said.

“We’ll see what comes out during the course of this litigation, but he has my support.”

Of Frazier, Ramsey said: “Anybody can file a lawsuit, and she’s certainly got a right to do so.” n

Contact David Gambacorta at 215-854-5994, gambacd@phillynews.com or on Twitter @dgambacorta.

|
|
|
|
|