Philly detective under investigation for racially-charged letter

Philadelphia police are responding to a 'troubling' letter they say was written by a homicide detective and left at a workstation in the department's homicide unit.

Commissioner Richard Ross spoke on the discovery of the letter, which was found on Monday, and announced that the officer who wrote the letter had been removed from street duty until further notice.

According to police, the detective penned the letter after he was apparently offended by bones that were left over from another officer's meal in a wastebasket at a shared workstation. The officer then printed the letter and taped it above the wastebasket for coworkers to see.

"It is very troubling to us. It has been circulated, undoubtedly, around the department and is of significant concern to me," Commissioner Ross said Tuesday afternoon. "One, because of our mission and what we pledge to do fairly and equitably across the city, but also for the integrity and reputation of the 6,500 sworn and 800 civilians under the employ of the police department.

Commissioner Ross explained that the letter raised questions about racial bias, contained offensive language and also made other troubling references. Ross also went on to explain that there was reason to believe the detective did not know who exactly left the waste in the basket. The letter does not name anyone specifically.

While detective who allegedly wrote the letter apparently wrote his name at the bottom of the page, the commissioner took time to dispel a rumor that the detective placed other copies of the letter in individual mailboxes of other coworkers.

According to the commissioner, other members of the homicide unit had made a point of distributing them in mailboxes because they were troubled by the letter's content and wanted to see that it was addressed.

"This is very perplexing to me for a lot of reasons," the commissioner added. "There's a lot of exaggerated speech, hyperbole if you will, in this letter. I don't begin to understand, besides what appears to be some of the obvious biases."

When asked about what discipline the detective could face, Ross said the punishment could be as harsh as dismissal.

"We have an obligation to make sure we investigate this in the proper way and we cover all the steps," Commissioner Ross said.

Internal Affairs is continuing to investigate the incident.