City: Cop can’t get Morris records
by Timothy Cwiek
Jun 05, 2014 | 674 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
N. Melville Jones, an openly gay Philadelphia police officer, believes he’s been victimized by pervasive anti-LGBT workplace bias.

He filed suit against the city last year, seeking an unspecified amount in monetary damages.

To buttress his complaint, he’s requested a copy of the Police Internal Affairs Division’s investigation into the Nizah Morris incident.

Jones believes the requested records will help prove his point that anti-LGBT bias within the police department isn’t investigated properly.

Morris was a transgender woman who sustained a fractured skull, shortly after entering a police vehicle for a Center City “courtesy ride” in 2002. The homicide remains unsolved

Portions of the Internal Affairs Morris investigation, which was conducted in 2004-05, were released to the public in 2008.

But some documents from the Internal Affairs Morris file appear to be withheld, including those relating to Sgt. Michael Dougherty’s reported claim that he gave permission for the courtesy ride.

In court papers, city attorneys contend the Internal Affairs Morris file cannot be disclosed in its entirety, citing state laws protecting ongoing criminal investigations.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office says it’s actively investigating the Morris homicide.

Attorneys for Jones have asked Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox to compel the city to produce the Internal Affairs Morris file in its entirety.

“The [Jones] suit concerns discrimination against a Philadelphia police officer who

identifies as gay and suffered severe and pervasive harassment as a result of his orientation. Therefore the requested records are highly relevant,” the motion states.

Jones’ lawyers also blast the city’s position that the Internal Affairs Morris file cannot be disclosed in its entirety due to state laws protecting ongoing criminal investigations.

“The requested files are supposed to be open to public review, and are not considered private and/or privileged,” the motion states.

Jones also cites an executive order issued by Mayor Nutter in 2011, stating that Internal Affairs investigative files are to be released in their entirety, once police have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for the Nutter administration, had no comment for this story.

In the past, Nutter has expressed support for transparency in the Morris case.

Fox is scheduled to hear from both sides in the dispute at 9 a.m. June 12 in City Hall Courtroom 243.

In a related matter, on May 29 Fox said she’ll rule on whether Jones must turn over his medical records to the city after she reads Jones’ deposition in the case. Attorneys for Jones say turning over his medical records would be a privacy invasion. But city attorneys say they’re entitled to them.

A non-jury trial in the case is expected in October.

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