Ramsey: Cop with phone-sex job didn't break rules

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (left) says he wants changes made to the department's policy on outside employment. (File photo)
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (left) says he wants changes made to the department's policy on outside employment. (File photo)
Posted: February 26, 2014

FOR YEARS, Philadelphia Police Officer Terra Barrow had a side job running a handful of websites and phone lines appealing to lusty callers with fetishes both tame and taboo.

Barrow told the Daily News yesterday that she stopped running the sites - which featured fetishes that would be illegal if acted upon in real life, like pedophilia, rape, incest, kidnapping and snuff - about two years ago, because she worried that they would endanger her police job.

Turns out she had no reason to worry.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Internal Affairs in 2011 sustained an allegation that Barrow was working in the phone-sex industry on the side, but the department's Police Board of Inquiry chose not to punish her because of a policy loophole.

"They found her not guilty on a technicality," Ramsey said, "because [phone-sex work] was not specifically enumerated as prohibited outside employment."

Now Ramsey says he wants Directive 121, the department's policy on outside employment, to be amended to bar officers from phone-sex work.

"It may not be illegal, but it doesn't look good at all for the department," he said. "There are certain types of jobs that are just inappropriate for a police officer."

Barrow's involvement in the phone-sex industry came to light again recently, when an anonymous agitator created a website accusing her of being a "phone-sex operator who has a list of clients from around the country."

The site also alleges that Barrow, who is assigned to the Civil Affairs Unit, "supplies 'dates' to fellow police officers." Barrow denied that accusation.

Never portrayed a cop

Barrow said she got into the phone-sex industry as "a matter of convenience."

"It was an opportunity to be home and not have to go out and make [extra] money," she said.

She left the business after a competitor reported her phone-sex work to Internal Affairs, saying she didn't want to imperil her police job. Barrow joined the force in April 1999 and makes $65,567 annually, according to city records.

But she still doesn't see what's so wrong with being a phone-sex operator.

"It's a 100 percent legal business," said Barrow, 35. "It didn't impede me from doing my duties. I never portrayed an officer. My real name was never revealed when I conducted my [phone-sex] business."

Further, she questioned whether other sex-related extracurriculars would be banned by the department, too. "Is it OK for a male police officer to go to a strip club when he's off-duty?"

Competitor Donna Burns' objections to Barrow's work were about more than sex. Burns runs multiple phone-sex websites and said she reported Barrow to her bosses and Internal Affairs several years ago.

She claims Barrow ripped off her site designs, stole her client database and bullied competitors by telling them she was a cop who worked in Homeland Security.

Barrow yesterday disputed those claims, calling Burns a "crazy liar" who'd do anything to squash her business rivals. Burns now owns Barrow's old sites, having bought them last spring from the woman who bought them from Barrow.

'Hunger in your pants'

Kristie Condon, 23, of Boise, Idaho, said she began working for Barrow in the summer of 2011 at tastyphonetreats.com.

(Barrow's other websites included tastyphonesex.com and tastyphonekitties.com, Burns and others in the industry said. The sites featured photos of nude or barely clothed women in various pornographic poses and offered "to satisfy the hunger in your pants" for $2 to $3 a minute.)

Condon said she became friends with Barrow, who told her she "worked for the government."

"I remember I was struggling financially, and she had mentioned spending $600 on a watch," Condon said. "She said she did phone sex purely to support her shopping habits."

Condon left Barrow after two months to work for Burns.

"The only reason I left was it was really slow; her company was a lot newer than Donna's, and I was just not making enough money," Condon said.

Burns also said she gave Internal Affairs investigators advertisements that Barrow allegedly placed in regional media offering her services as an escort named "Black Barbie."

Barrow acknowledged she used that nickname in email but has never worked as an escort.

The website that unmasked Barrow as a phone-sex operator describes her as "the HO that Knows."

The site lists its creator as "Michael DiBlasio." The Daily News' attempts to reach "DiBlasio" were unsuccessful, and Barrow said that was an invented name. She said the site was created by "an ex, someone I dated for a few months," but declined to name him.

Barrow said she'd hired a lawyer who helped her to get the site taken down in early 2013, only to have the creator resurrect it shortly after.

She didn't make a second attempt at having the site removed.

"He has mental issues; he's psychotic," she said. "I don't want to rock that boat . . . [and] I'm not going to keep paying [a lawyer] over and over again to have it removed."

Ramsey said Internal Affairs won't investigate the website because those allegations against Barrow have already been investigated - and substantiated.

Even though Barrow insists that she's out of the phone-sex business, her Twitter feed suggests she hasn't fully left those interests behind. She follows @BayCityBlues, "the best phone-sex website featuring only REAL GIRLS who love to talk dirty."

But her current side job - for which she said she got departmental approval - is a fitness business called "Wrap N Roll," which sells botanical products, including a body wrap that supposedly firms fat and minimizes cellulite.

Ethical standards

According to Police Department policy, officers can have outside employment, or even be self-employed, but they have to get approval from their bosses.

Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the Police Advisory Commission, said Directive 121 outlines the criteria that cops have to meet before they can have a side job.

Any position that would involve a badge or a hint of police powers - like, say, a security-guard position - is out of the question. So, too, would be a job in an establishment that sells alcohol.

A cop who is angling for outside employment has to identify the prospective employer and the nature of the work, and then submit it up the chain of command for approval, Anderson said.

Ramsey said he didn't know if Barrow sought approval from her superiors before she began to work in the phone-sex industry.

The directive states that it's up to the police commissioner or another bigwig to determine whether the outside job meets the "ethical and/or professional standards of the department."

"I would presume the type of business she's allegedly been engaged in would not be permitted," Anderson said. "This is the kind of thing nobody contemplated doing when they were in the Police Academy."

John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said any change that Ramsey wants to make to the directive would have to be negotiated with the union.

"I've never heard of this sort of case before," he said.

McNesby noted that it's common for cops to have part-time jobs, but they usually involve tamer pursuits, like coaching baseball teams, delivering bread or selling real estate.

"For me, if you're a police officer, you're supposed to portray a certain public image," he said.

"But on the other hand," he continued, "I guess you're entitled to a private life."


On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo

Blog: phillyconfidential.com

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