COLUMBUS, OH — A black Columbus police lieutenant may lose her job after she reportedly told a black sergeant she did not give him a negative performance evaluation because she did not “believe in black-on-black crime,” and created a hostile work environment for officers, according to an internal affairs investigation released Friday.
Administrators accuse Lt. Melissa McFadden of violating equal employment opportunity laws when she was evaluating Sgt. Andre Tate in January 2017. The report also alleges that she created a contentious work environment for subordinates in Zone 2, which includes portions of the South and Southeast side of the city.
A report describes McFadden, 47, as having a “black militancy mindset” and using the “n-word” in a conversation with a black officer. She also is accused of creating an “us versus them” attitude when it came to black and white officers, which she denied to investigators. She discouraged officers from being “proactive” on patrol and believes white officers, and at times black officers, disproportionately target blacks, according to the report.
Columbus police Chief Kim Jacobs recommended a 240-hour suspension, demotion to the rank of police officer and termination for McFadden. Public Safety Director Ned Pettus will ultimately decide McFadden’s discipline, according to a notice from Jacobs dated May 17.
According to the case file, Tate told a white commander, Rhonda Grizzell, the “black-on-black crime” comment meant “nothing bad would be documented since Lt. McFadden and he are both black,” according to an internal affairs report. Tate worked for McFadden for 19 months. He reported the comments more than a month after they were made.
The report states McFadden defined the phrase, ”‘black-on-black crime” as meaning she was not going to do “dirty things”’ to him, another black person, and he did not deserve to be on an action plan. She went on to say evaluations were used for disciplinary measures and that minorities in the division received more discipline than others, according to the report.
McFadden, who has worked for the division for 22 years, told investigators that her ratings for Tate were not based on race and she did not use personal feelings to gauge a sergeant’s performance. She said she conducts evaluations the same for all sergeants.
Since the investigation was initiated, McFadden, who is one of two black female lieutenants within the division, was not assigned standard desk duty. Instead, she was given a manual labor job in the property room, where she had to report to a civilian. She was injured as a result of the work and, as of Friday, remained on injury leave, according to her attorney, John Marshall.
The internal affairs investigation came after McFadden helped another officer file an EEO complaint in 2016. A rebuttal letter to the city from McFadden’s attorneys states she was told by another officer, “Grizzell was going to come after Lt. McFadden and run Lt. McFadden off of the zone.” Grizzell reported McFadden was a “demoralizing and ineffective” leader based on conversations with officers.
Marshall contends the case was built against McFadden to “trump-up EEO complaints against her,” according to the letter.
The division previously had an investigation of a white sergeant who used racist language including the use of the n-word and received a written reprimand.
“White officers have been deemed credible when they have been involved in racist or racially charged incidents. It’s unfortunate they would treat her differently but they did,” Marshall told The Dispatch. “If the Fraternal Order of Police is doing its job as it has done for so many white officers, they will take this as far as it will go, including arbitration.”