Complaints roll in, but high-level cop keeps getting promoted

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel allegedly told a sergeant not to "f---" with Washington because the two were friends.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel allegedly told a sergeant not to "f---" with Washington because the two were friends. (FILE PHOTO)
Posted: September 27, 2012

WENDY DUCKSWORTH, a Temple University student, sat in the 39th Police District's roll-call room for what she thought would be a professional interview with then-Lt. Anthony Washington for a school project.

Washington ogled her, his eyes roving from her face to her feet before he fixated on her breasts that day in February 2006, said Ducksworth, then 37.

"I'm sorry for staring, but you look good," he told her, his eyes widening, said Ducksworth. "You're my type. You're the size I like."

"OK," she said, "but that's not the reason I'm here."

But Washington, now the captain of the 17th District, in Point Breeze, wouldn't let up, according to Ducksworth.

He asked her the sexiest thing she'd ever done. He told her it was OK for a man to cheat on his wife as long as she had everything she needed. He told her she had nice lips and admired her slender, yet curvy stature, Ducksworth said.

"I felt like a piece of meat at a carnival," said Ducksworth, who now works for the Department of Defense, in a recent interview with the Daily News.

Ducksworth is one of at least 14 people outside the Police Department who have lodged complaints against Washington during his 24-year career.

Within the department, at least four police officers have filed lawsuits against Washington, accusing him of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. These officers have also filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints against him.

As far back as 1998, Washington was on the Police Department's secretly compiled list of officers it considered at-risk employees.

Yet, despite all the allegations and concerns, Washington breezily moved up through the ranks, and is now slated to be promoted to inspector.

Taxpayers get hit

Washington, 44, is the latest in a string of high-ranking city-police officials who for years have had a litany of troubling accusations lodged against them.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey last week cautioned that just because Washington has complaints in his file, it doesn't mean that he's guilty. Police Internal Affairs have deemed the citizen complaints against him unfounded.

"I don't believe I have grounds to deny someone a promotion or an assignment [based on complaints]," Ramsey said. "That's the whole point of doing an investigation."

Taxpayers have already paid for Washington's alleged boorish behavior. Last year, the city paid $75,000 to settle two federal sexual-harassment lawsuits that were filed by cops against him.

Washington could cost taxpayers more. He is the subject of a federal lawsuit in which Sgt. John Massi claims that high-level police officials protected Washington and punished Massi for questioning Washington's conduct.

Settlement talks are also scheduled for December in connection with a civil lawsuit filed last year by Raheem Holman, 23, of South Philadelphia, who alleges that Washington ordered an officer to "put that n----- on his knees," and Washington then split Holman's head open with a baton in March 2010.

Eleven staples were needed to close Holman's head. Holman was charged with aggravated assault and related offenses, but the charges were later dismissed.

Of the lawsuits, Ramsey said: "The city settles a lot of things that could go to trial. The mere fact that they settle doesn't mean a person's guilty.

"People can sue about anything. People can make all kinds of accusations. In those instances when we've had sustained complaints, I've taken action, irrespective of rank."

Last month, Ramsey took the unusual step of asking an outside law firm to investigate the conduct of Staff Inspector Jerrold Bates after the Daily News reported allegations that Bates coerced former aide Keisha Johnson into a sexual relationship to keep her job.

The District Attorney's Office has launched a probe to determine whether Bates should face criminal charges.

Bates is a former top supervisor in the police Internal Affairs Bureau and was also the bureau's Equal Employment Opportunity Officer in charge of investigating abuse, harassment and discrimination complaints within the department.

Bates has declined to comment.

Washington did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

"I felt violated"

About two weeks after Ducksworth's unnerving encounter with Washington, she said that two 39th District officers stopped her at 25th Street and Indiana Avenue as she drove to a laundromat.

The officers asked her why she had a handicapped license plate. Ducksworth, who had a knee injury from nearly 10 years of Army service, questioned why she had to explain her medical condition.

Ducksworth said that one of the officers stared at her breasts, licked his lips, and said, "Well you look good to me."

The other officer said, "C'mon, man. Stop flirting with her," Ducksworth said.

Ducksworth then went to the 39th District to complain about the officers. She asked for a supervisor, and Washington came out.

"I couldn't believe it," Ducksworth told the Daily News. "I told him, 'You're the supervisor? They look to you to know how to act? . . . If you're ignorant, they will be ignorant. I understand why they act the way they do because of you. This explains everything. The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.' "

Ducksworth, a single mom of three, went to the bathroom and cried. "I felt violated, like I'd been raped mentally. I felt dirty. I felt used. I felt helpless. It's a fraternity. Everyone knows they stick together," she said.

"I now understand why so many people don't have respect for the police or don't trust them. It's a blatant misuse of power."

After reporting Washington and the officers to Internal Affairs, she wrote letters to then-Gov. Ed Rendell, then-Mayor John Street and then-Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson.

"I needed that wrong to be made right," she said. "But it never happened."

Sexual advances

In August 2005, Sgt. Randy Davis, who worked with Washington in the 39th District, in Nicetown, filed a federal lawsuit prompted by his alleged advances on a woman officer.

Officer Najihma Morris had complained to Davis, who was her boss, that Washington was making sexual advances.

Davis then witnessed Washington making sexual comments to Morris and another female officer, Shamaya Bullock.

After Davis told Washington that his behavior was inappropriate, Washington ordered him to crack down on Morris for any infractions, according to the lawsuit.

In May 2005, Davis reported Washington's alleged behavior to the 39th District's commander, Capt. Stephen Glenn.

A month later, Davis told the Police Department's Equal Employment Opportunity Unit about Washington's alleged behavior.

Glenn, Washington and other top officials then harassed Davis and retaliated against him, according to the lawsuit.

Glenn and Washington barred Davis from his regular duties, which included conducting roll call and training officers, the suit alleges.

Washington or Glenn were responsible for an anonymous letter in which Davis was accused of having sex with 39th District officers, according to the suit. Internal Affairs did not sustain the allegation against Davis.

Davis, who now works in North Philly's 22nd District, could not be reached for comment; nor could Bullock. Morris declined to comment. Glenn did not respond to a request for comment.

Inspector Aaron Horne subsequently transferred Davis to "an undesirable and retaliatory detail" in Germantown's 14th District. (Horne was suspended for 30 days earlier this month for allegedly trying to cover up the arrest of a retired police captain's grandson.)

The city settled Davis' lawsuit for $55,000 in July 2011.

Retaliation

Two more officers, Tonya Milligan and Robin Himmons, filed a lawsuit against Washington after he'd been promoted to captain and transferred to Southwest Philly's 12th District in November 2010.

Milligan, who worked as the CompStat officer tracking crime statistics, said that Washington kept telling her that she needed to smile when he walked into the room.

"He asked me if I cook and clean and do I know how to be submissive," Milligan said in an interview.

"He kept calling me into his office but seldom talked about work. It was about me smiling and what I did at home," said Milligan, who, along with Himmons, settled their lawsuit against Washington and the city for $20,000 in March 2011.

Milligan, now 41, told Washington that smiling at him was not a job requirement. Washington retaliated against her, she said.

He reassigned her and repeatedly changed her shift. One time, she said, Washington reprimanded her for returning to the district to use the bathroom; another time for coming to work too early.

When she and five other officers were involved in a shooting in July 2008, Washington had all the officers, except Milligan, receive counseling, she said.

And when she was assigned inside, Washington stood behind her desk, watching her.

"Everyone in the district knew what was going on. They told me they were sorry he did this to me," she said.

"When this happened, it changed my view of the department," she said. "We were sworn to protect and serve the public, but no one was there to protect us."

Serious lack of judgment

Some high-ranking officers were appalled by Washington's alleged behavior.

In 2008, then-Inspector Anthony Boyle, who headed the Southwest Police Division, received complaints from 12th District cops about Washington's treatment of women.

One officer told Boyle that Washington had asked a female cop in October 2008 if she was "washing [her boyfriend's] ass" after he suffered a hand injury, according to internal documents obtained by the Daily News.

Boyle, now a chief inspector, said that he expressed concerns about Washington's conduct in an annual performance review.

Boyle declined to discuss the issue further.

But in a letter obtained by the Daily News, Boyle wrote to Washington: "You have allowed and, in many cases, caused personal animosities to deteriorate the morale and working relationships within the district. You have shown a serious lack of judgment and leadership in your relationship with many of the supervisors in the district."

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, however, rebuked Boyle's reprimand of Washington and ordered Boyle to change the criticisms in his evaluation, according to several police sources.

Bethel admitted to Boyle that he and Washington were friends, the sources said, yet Boyle refused to change the evaluation.

On Jan. 11, 2010, Boyle was transferred to night command, an assignment that cops regard as punishment.

Bethel declined to comment on Washington's performance review, and said that Boyle's transfer to night command had nothing to do with it.

Ramsey said that Boyle, a member of Air Force Reserve, was transferred to night command because "his going on military leave was of some concern. I needed someone [in Southwest Division] constantly."

Boyle, however, said that when he was sent to night command, there were no plans for him to be called to active duty.

'Don't f--- with him'

Sgt. John Massi is the latest officer to file suit against Washington. Massi traces his troubles back to March 2009, when he heard that Washington was slated to command the 17th District, in Point Breeze.

Massi called Bethel, his former boss. "I said, 'Is this the same Anthony Washington who has all the sexual [harassment] allegations against him?' " Massi asked.

"Bethel's response to me was, 'John, he's a good f---ing friend of mine, don't f--- with him . . . that's all in the past.' "

Massi, 40, said that Washington called him into a private meeting shortly after he arrived.

"I was sitting across the table from [Washington]. He's got his chair kicked back and he's grabbing his crotch and rubbing his penis, and he's asking me, 'John, how much p---y are you getting here?'" Massi said during a recent interview.

"This is my very first conversation with him. And I just looked at him like, is this a joke? And he just repeats it again: 'How much p---y are you getting here? I hear [another cop] gets a lot of p---y here.'

"I said, 'Captain, I come here to work. I really don't fool around.' He sat up . . . and told me that it doesn't look like I know what I'm doing, that my [arrest] numbers aren't high enough," Massi said.

Massi's supervisors had praised his police work in the past.

Bethel wrote in a May 2008 performance evaluation, obtained by the Daily News, that Massi was "at the top of the list" of "exceptional supervisors."

Bethel also wrote that Massi's "focus and dedication . . . played a role in my recent promotion" to deputy commissioner.

Yet, Washington cursed and berated him in front of other cops, and questioned his ability to be a supervisor, according to the suit.

Washington also excluded Massi from meetings, reassigned him to overnight and retaliated against cops who tried to remain loyal to Massi, the suit alleges.

The veteran sergeant said he also saw Washington gawk at two Hispanic female officers in the 17th District.

"They had their backs to him and he's leaning against a wall, rubbing his penis with his right hand, with his left hand over his mouth, while saying, 'Mmm, wow, mmm,' " Massi said.

"It was common practice from Day 1. Other supervisors just referred to it as Tony being Tony."

Bethel told Massi that he knew he was having problems with Washington and said that he could transfer to another district, but added, "[Washington] is my friend - don't f--- with him," the suit says.

Massi said that he was later suspended for 15 days for refusing to meet with Washington. Massi now works in the Real Time Crime Center at Police Headquarters.

"I never worked for anybody like him in my life," Massi said.

"He disgraces everybody that's died in the line of duty wearing that badge and uniform."

Massi's attorney, Brian Humble, said that Massi's experience shows "that there's a systemic problem in the police force that really comes out of what's called the 'Blue Code of Silence.' "

"It's something that's difficult to prove, and that sort of thing exists in a lot of jobs. But it's real strong in the Police Department," Humble said.

Even the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 raised questions about Washington, who crashed his police-issued vehicle on Kelly Drive in March 2009.

FOP vice president John McGrody noted that police officers who crash their cruisers can expect to be suspended for three to five days.

Washington, however, faced no discipline, McGrody said.

"We did raise concerns with the city about how this accident was investigated, and what the results of the investigation were," he said.

"We requested the results, but we've never received them."


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

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