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Black Columbus Police Lieutenant Files Federal Discrimination Lawsuit Against City

Raymond Wambsgans

A black Columbus police lieutenant recommended for termination has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city.

The lawsuit from Melissa McFadden comes two weeks after Chief Kim Jacobs cited an investigation by the Internal Affairs division in recommending she be fired.  

Investigators said McFadden created a hostile work environment with a “black militancy mindset." Investigators said some of her colleagues, including other African-American officers, thought she was overly focused on race. The investigation also says McFadden gave a black sergeant a favorable review because she doesn’t believe in “black-on-black crime.” 

McFadden denies saying that and claims she was targeted by bitter commanders after helping a black officer pursue a racial discrimination complaint.

In the 14-page lawsuit filed Monday, McFadden claims she accompanied that officer to a meeting with Commander Jennifer Knight, who led the internal affairs division, in November 2016. The lawsuit says “Commander Knight was annoyed by that complaint” and said it was “not going anywhere.”

McFadden also claims “Knight stated that she was going to ‘take [McFadden] out’ for assisting the African-American female officer with the charge.”

The lawsuit says another commander “spoke with current and former subordinates of Lt. McFadden’s and solicited negative reviews about her leadership in an effort to undermine her.”

McFadden also claims she was reassigned to a “humiliating” post in the department’s property room, while most officers in similar cases are assigned to desk duty.

An emailed statement from a police spokeswoman said, “Chief Jacobs stands by her decision. She works hard to run a Division where officers work without extra stress/pressure in addition to their normal duties. Beyond that we can’t comment further because of the pending litigation.”

The decision on whether McFadden should be fired ultimately rests with Public Safety Director Ned Pettis.

McFadden’s lawsuit follows a 2016 lawsuit by Kevin Morgan, a black former officer who alleges he was wrongly terminated in 2015 and treated unfairly compared to white officers facing similar allegations.