Cops' whistleblower suit claims brass punished them for snitching

Lt. Vincent Testa, then-commander of the Firearms Identification Unit, holds a fake handgun at the unit in July 2009. A federal civil-rights lawsuit alleges that Testa, among other things, was involved in a coverup of weapons thefts. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Lt. Vincent Testa, then-commander of the Firearms Identification Unit, holds a fake handgun at the unit in July 2009. A federal civil-rights lawsuit alleges that Testa, among other things, was involved in a coverup of weapons thefts. ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: May 24, 2012

DOES THE Philadelphia Police Department have a “no snitching” policy for its men and women in blue?

That troubling question is at the heart of a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed Thursday by Lt. Leonard Logan and Sgt. Andrew Little, who allege that the department’s top brass punished them for blowing the whistle on widespread problems in the Firearms Identification Unit.

The issue dates to August 2009, when two problems arose in the FIU, the lawsuit says.

Chief Inspector Evelyn Heath and Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn, both of whom oversaw the unit, wanted the FIU’s backlog of firearms that needed to be examined to drop from about 1,500 to 500, the lawsuit alleges.

The FIU’s commander, Lt. Vincent Testa, “mass shipped” unexamined firearms to an evidence room in City Hall, and “fabricated paperwork to show the backlog was reduced,” according to the lawsuit.

About that time, FIU Officer Anthony Magsam allegedly stole automatic-weapon parts from the unit.

Magsam — whose mother, Sgt. Barbara Feeney, is married to a retired police chief inspector — eventually returned the parts, and was transferred out of the unit, the lawsuit alleges.

Although the alleged theft was a potential federal crime, Magsam was never disciplined. According to the lawsuit, Testa discouraged cops in the unit from reporting the alleged theft.

(Magsam resigned from the force in December, a few months after cops removed 51 guns from his Northeast Philly home.)

Little, who worked in the FIU at the time of the alleged theft, reported it to Ramsey and Deputy Commissioners Richard Ross and Patricia Georgio-Fox in May 2010, according to the suit.

An Internal Affairs investigation was launched, and Logan was put in charge of the case.

The lawsuit says that Logan determined that Testa and other top officials, including Heath and Blackburn, had orchestrated a coverup of Magsam’s alleged theft.

Logan began to fear that his bosses would interfere with his probe, the lawsuit alleges, prompting him to keep his files at home.

Logan also reached out to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, both of which launched their own investigations.

Logan’s investigation seemingly stalled until last summer, when the Daily News began reporting about the allegations against Magsam and Testa.

The People’s Paper discovered other problems in the FIU, including a file cabinet with paperwork for guns that investigators could no longer account for.

The suit says that Ramsey, Blackburn, Heath, Testa and others “entered into an agreement to silence Little and Logan” for reporting the problems to the feds.

Ramsey said that he has not seen a copy of the lawsuit.

Ramsey removed Logan from Internal Affairs and suspended him in January for failing to conduct a complete investigation.

Little was transferred from the FIU and suspended in December for failing to supervise.

According to the lawsuit, both cops say that they suffered more than $150,000 in economic damages.

Ramsey also transferred an inspector and a captain from Internal Affairs in January, and suspended Testa while ordering that he never return to FIU. n

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

|
|
|
|
|