Five Phila. Officers Fired, Three Over Slurs

Robert Moran, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 24, 2009

Five Philadelphia police officers were fired yesterday for alleged misconduct, including two incidents in which officers were accused of using racial slurs.

Among them was William Thrasher, 24, who allegedly called African Americans in his 22d District “animals” and worse.

Thrasher, who had been on the force for two years, was quoted by a Temple University journalism student who was riding with him on patrol for a class assignment.

Shannon McDonald’s article was posted on a Temple Web site. Philadelphia media picked up the quotes, which prompted demands for Thrasher’s firing.

Officers Donald Swan and Anthony Ferriola were also dismissed on allegations that they used racial epithets on the job. The remarks allegedly were made toward students while the two responded to a fight March 13 inside Audenried High School in South Philadelphia.

The remaining two officers, John Safarowicz and Sgt. Paul Seeger, were terminated for alleged conduct in separate off-duty incidents. They also were criminally charged yesterday.

All five officers were officially suspended 30 days with intent to dismiss. The firings were announced in a news release. Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey was not immediately available for comment.

John McNesby, president of Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said the union would file grievances on behalf of the officers and then review the internal investigations that had been conducted for each of them.

As for the alleged racial slurs, McNesby said the police union did not condone such behavior but questioned whether discipline short of firing was more appropriate.

During the ride-along, Thrasher allegedly referred to the violence in his predominantly African American district as “typical n- s-” or “TNS.”

Chris Harper, the associate journalism professor at Temple who edited McDonald’s article, said the commissioner’s action vindicated the accuracy of McDonald’s work.

McDonald, a 21-year-old senior who is about to graduate, went on a three-hour ride with Thrasher on Jan. 30 for Temple’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab, which is the final required course for a journalism major.

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The article is still online at www.temple.edu/murl

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James Golden, chief safety executive for the Philadelphia School District, said: “We are grateful for [Ramsey’s] swift and direct action in this case.”

Golden said a large fight in Audenried’s cafeteria had required a response from school and city police. During the response, students complained, and teachers and other staff allegedly heard Swan and Ferriola utter racial epithets at students.

Swan was a four-year veteran. Ferriola joined the department three years ago.

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[Editor’s Note: An earlier story on Shannon McDonald’s “ride-along” can be found here.]

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