Philly police Narcotics Unit captain sues Deputy Commissioner Blackburn over alleged harassment

By Jon Campisi | Mar 29, 2012

The captain in charge of the Philadelphia Police Department’s elite Narcotics Unit has filed a federal discrimination complaint against a decorated coworker, alleging, among other things, that the high-ranking commander in the law enforcement agency engaged in a two-and-a-half-year harassment campaign against her.

Cpt. Debra Frazier, who has been employed with the police department since 1989, claims in her suit that beginning in early June 2008, Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn began making unwanted advances toward her, including continually calling her while she was on vacation, inquiring as to her relationship status and informing her how lonely he was since breaking up with his girlfriend.

The harassment continued for more than two years, the lawsuit alleges, during which Frazier made both informal and formal complaints to attempt to have Blackburn’s advances put to a stop.

The complaint, which was filed March 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Newtown, Pa. attorney Brian M. Puricelli, also names as defendants the City of Philadelphia and 10 John Doe police officials.

Frazier experienced numerous occasions in which Blackburn threatened to retaliate against her following her complaints to the department.

In one instance, the complaint alleges, Blackburn threatened to run Frazier over with his car after the two encountered one another in the parking lot of the gym at which both are members.

Blackburn, who supervises Frazier at work, also retaliated against the plaintiff by treating her differently than other subordinates, such as making her wear a police uniform while others in a similar job position could be in plainclothes.

“Plaintiff is the only female and African-American that has opposed Blackburn’s advances and misconduct and thereafter Blackburn required a uniform to be worn when police policy provides that a uniform not be worn,” the lawsuit states.

In March of last year, Frazier filed a complaint with the police department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Unit.

Since that time, the suit claims, Frazier has been subject to adverse conduct by not only Blackburn, but also others in the police department and within the city’s leadership.

The lawsuit further alleges that Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey “failed to stop Blackburn,” and that following Frazier’s complaints, he unilaterally disbanded the EEO Unit.

Frazier also claims her actions got her reassigned from her captain’s position with the Narcotics Unit to a position with a local police precinct.

The complaint further alleges that Blackburn has made comments to Frazier relating to her Muslim faith. On one occasion, he asked Frazier why she wears Muslim garb while off-duty.

The defendants in the lawsuit also retaliated against Frazier for her speaking out against the police department over incidents of discrimination.

On April 1, 2011, Frazier filed a charge of employment discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint contained allegations of religions, sex and race discrimination and for retaliation for opposing such discrimination.

As a result of her ongoing ordeal, the lawsuit claims, Frazier has sustained economic damages and “extreme emotional distress,” as well as humiliation, embarrassment, and loss of life’s enjoyment.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating Frazier’s federal civil rights in addition to violating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

For the various counts listed in the suit, Frazier seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to attorney’s fees and other litigation costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01543-JD.


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