Columbus, OH

Columbus Federal Discrimination Lawsuit Led by Police Officers

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In Columbus, Ohio, there is currently a movement to file a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city of Columbus. Currently, there are thirteen officers who have joined the movement. The group of officers who have joined the movement claim that there has been a racially charged hostile work environment created, which has been allowed to fester.

The movement began because of the city being put on notice by a dozen Columbus police officers. Ten of the police officers are current workers, with one being a retired sergeant. All of them want to haul key leaders within the Columbus Division of Police, as well as the Columbus Public Safety, into federal court. The start of it all was around Columbus police Lt. Melissa McFadden, who had lashed out against the Division and her colleagues for systemic racism that she had written about in a book.

“They’ve forced our hand because they choose to do nothing.”

-Trent Taylor, retired sergeant

Those who are fighting against the city are men and women of different ranks and races, and all of them have the same goal of filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city of Columbus. Zach Gottesman is leading the way in the first step, and is acting as the attorney to the officers who are fighting against the city.

According to Gottesman, the officers are fed up with the way the situation has been handled by the city, and they are searching for justice for those who have been treated wrongly underneath systematic racism.

“This is demoralizing for them that in the midst of all other police and community tensions that we have, they have this sort of unnecessary divisive behavior in their midst.”

-Zach Gottesman

Allegedly, Sgt. Andre Tate had told Sgt. Weaver said that McFadden said that it would have been worse, but that she did not believe in black-on-black crime. McFadden had also been motivated by Tate’s race to get an undeserved higher rating, stating that her comment had been hurtful, and that he was embarrassed for the Division. McFadden, however, had denied that her term had been race-related. However, she did admit to Sgt. Weaver that her friends in the Black community had said the same things she said to describe one Black person doing another Black person wrong.

McFadden continues her fight against the country and the state, however. Officer Levon Morefield had said in a statement that McFadden had stated “if it takes a few officers to have to die in order for this country to realize we have an issue with white officers killing Black men, then so be it.” McFadden, however, denies ever telling Morefield that.

Morefield had more to say when it came towards McFadden, stating that he had been disgusted when McFadden had told him that his white coworkers were not happy about him “screwing one of theirs.” Morefield had responded to McFadden that his wife was Filipina, not white. Morefield had also spoken up about more of McFadden’s statements towards him, where McFadden had told Morefield that he needed to watch out for White co-workers, and that he should be more mindful that some people don’t like interracial relationships. As a result of the hostile environment being built up by McFadden, Morefield left Zone 2.

“The allegations and all the charges against Mrs. McFadden were determined to be substantiated that she violated Division directives regarding creating a hostile work environment and was discriminating against officers based on their race.”

-Zach Gottesman

Morefield had not been the only one to leave Zone 2 due to the hostile environments. Officer Anthony Johnson had also stated that McFadden had been the leading cause behind him leaving Zone 2 himself. Johnson had reported to Sgt. Weaver that McFadden had said to him in one instance that she did not want proactive officers in the zone, due to it possibly leading to White officers having more opportunities to harass or arrest minorities. McFadden has also denied this statement towards Johnson.

Taylor, an officer who had retired last July, has also spoken up against McFadden. In response to if the work environment felt hostile for him while working at the Division, and if McFadden had been a part of it, Taylor had responded saying yes to both of the statements. Taylor had been investigated in 2016 during an internal affairs investigation due to a complaint against him for a Facebook post about explosives and a Black Lives Matter Post. Taylor claims that her statements against him were false, and that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing. He had been investigated by a male Black supervisor and that nothing had been there to be used against him.

As well as this, Taylor said that he felt as though McFadden had specifically been hostile towards him in particular. Taylor went to file a complaint as a private citizen on her for calling him a racist within the book that she had released in September, as well as for her not getting any prior approval to do so. The Division command had issued to McFadden the lowest form of discipline as a result, Documented Constructive Counseling.

“The book was sort of the final straw because everybody realized at that point the situation wasn’t going to improve on its own and the conditions were going to continue to deteriorate.”

-Zach Gottesman

McFadden had also rallied outside of the police headquarters not long after the release of her controversial book. She had been disparaging her fellow officers, as well as the Division, in a way that is considered forbidden. She has been very open about her opinions to the point that the Division has refused to act.

McFadden's attitude towards those within the Division and the officers within them has created a state of discomfort within those working in the Division. As well as this, she had written a book that had dehumanized or spoken down on specific officers in a way that was uncalled for or that would put them in a bad light.

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