NBC4 Investigates is updating a story that spurred racial tension within the Columbus Police Department.
Last May, Chief Kim Jacobs recommended firing one of the department’s highest-ranked black female cops. An internal affairs investigation accused Lt. Melissa McFadden of creating a hostile work environment and harboring an “us against them” attitude when it comes to black and white officers.
Ned Pettus, the City’s Public Safety Director, recently heard the case and ruled in the lieutenant’s favor.
Lt. McFadden is talking exclusively with NBC 4 Investigator Tom Sussi about the allegations and her future with the department. She met with Sussi at her lawyer’s office.
“I want to make sure this is me speaking as a private citizen,” McFadden, stressing that she is not speaking as a representative of CPD.
The 22-year CPD veteran wants to be clear on something else too. She said Melissa McFadden the private citizen, and Melissa McFadden the police lieutenant, share the same values.
“I am pro-black, but I am not anti-white,” McFadden said.
Last year, if you recall, it was Lt. McFadden who made headlines.
Sussi pulled out one of them and read, “Black Columbus police lieutenant faces firing over racial comments. That’s a serious blow to anyone’s reputation.”
“Yes,” said Lt. McFadden.
“How do you recover from that?” asked Sussi.
“It’s hard to recover from that when people say stuff that you can’t disprove in the sense of just words, like he said, she said. You can’t disprove that,” answered McFadden.
Words like “black militancy mindset.” That’s how some of McFadden’s CPD colleagues described her in the department internal affairs investigation report. And, when it comes to black and white officers, the report states Lt. McFadden has an “us against them” attitude.
“There is no evidence to support that.,” explained Lt. McFadden. “They searched my computer, they searched my desk, the searched my email history. And that could not find one shred of evidence that I created or said anything racist or did anything discriminatory toward any officer.”
Things like using the N-word, which a black officer said Lt. McFadden used in a conversion with him.
“I wouldn’t do that,” said Lt. McFadden. “This is not who I am as a person. This is not how I was raised.”
“Do you think you did anything at CPD that would be defined as racist?” Sussi asked.
McFadden said, “No.”
Sussi asked, “Do you consider yourself a racist?”
McFadden replied, “No, not at all. I’ve always been righting that my whole career, about treating people fairly. Black. White. It doesn’t matter.”
Lt. McFadden said she could return to work in October if her doctor gives her the okay.
“I injured my rotator cuff,” she said. “I tore that. and I have two herniated discs in my neck.”
Lt. McFadden said when the investigation started last year, CPD demoted her to the property room. She said she injured herself doing manual labor.
“I was tasked with taking the covers off old, expired bulletproof vests. I would take off the covers, tape the panels together, and stack them on pallets. And I had to stack them every day for eight hours a day,” said McFadden.
Sussi asked, “How to you think you’re going to be received by other officers when you return?”
McFadden said, “Those officers that know I am fair and consistent, I’ll be received fine.”
How does Chief Kim Jacobs feel that Columbus Public Safety Director Ned Pettus didn’t side with her decision to fire Lt. McFadden? Because of a death in the family, CPD said Chief Kim Jacobs isn’t available for an interview to answer the question.
Instead, CPD emailed Sussi this statement:
The Chief made her decision and stands by it. Ultimately, the Public Safety Director’s decision trumps the Chief’s.
We also reached out to Pettus, only to be told he isn’t available,either.
In June, Lt. McFadden’s lawyers, the firm of Marshall and Foreman, slapped the City with a federal lawsuit. The claims? Racial discrimination and retaliation. McFadden’s lawyers told Sussi they have no intentions of pulling the lawsuit.