Philadelphia Police Officer Matthew Zagursky was removed from street patrol last week, after he was caught on video uttering anti-LGBT slurs and coercing a motorist into purchasing tickets to a police fundraiser.
The actions of Zagursky, a nine-year veteran of the Philadelphia police force, were recorded by a camera inside a motorist’s vehicle during a recent traffic stop.
Zagursky, 32, can be heard on the video blatantly gender-stereotyping and exhibiting anti-LGBT bias.
For example, when questioning the motorist about his pink windshield wipers, he said: “What’s up with the faggot-ass wipers?”
The motorist indicated the wipers are pink to demonstrate support for breast-cancer awareness.
“Breast cancer I can understand,” Zagursky replied. “But can’t you support breast cancer in another way? It looks like you’re a fruitcake. You know? What the hell?”
Zagursky encouraged the motorist to purchase three tickets to an upcoming Police and Fire Thrill Show, and to take a female so he won’t look like a “fruitcake.”
The thrill show raises funds to pay college tuition for the children of Philadelphia police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Additionally, Zagursky referred to the man’s vehicle and its content as “shit.”
The motorist couldn’t be reached for comment. On the video, he appears to hand Zagursky $30 for three thrill-show tickets, to avoid having his vehicle towed.
The video was posted on a Facebook account belonging to someone with the user name “Rob Stay Faded.”
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey condemned Zagursky’s actions.
“What he did was totally inappropriate,” Ramsey told PGN. “It was wrong, there’s no question about that. Once the investigation is completed, I’ll take the action I feel is appropriate in light of the situation — both in terms of the slurs he was using as well as the selling of the tickets.”
He said Zagursky is now assigned to desk duty at the Differential Police Response unit, located in the Police Administration Building. Zagursky previously was assigned to the 24th Police District, which covers the Juniata Park section of the city.
Ramsey said Zagursky’s service revolver, badge and police identification card have been taken from him. Ramsey said Internal Affairs is investigating the incident, and it’s possible the Police Board of Inquiry also will get involved.
Ramsey didn’t know whether Zagursky had any LGBT-diversity training.
“I’m trying to see what type of in-service training he’s had,” the commissioner said.
Helen “Nellie” Fitzpatrick, director of the city’s Office of LGBT Affairs, praised Ramsey’s response to the incident.
“After being briefed, Commissioner Ramsey immediately spoke out and said that ‘nothing he did was right’ in reference to the actions of this officer,” Fitzpatrick said, in an email. “However, everything the leadership here has done in response has been right — including the immediate phone call I received from [LGBT liaison] Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel assuring me and others in the LGBT community that the officer would be dealt with for all infractions/violations of law and directive(s). He was furious about the ‘demeaning and derogatory language’ that we purposefully have a directive forbidding and simply do not stand for. ‘It’s all on the table,’ he said, in reference to the action that will be taken against this officer. I am extremely proud of the capacity, empathy and respect the Philadelphia Police Department’s leadership has for the LGBT community, especially Commissioner Ramsey and Deputy Commissioner Bethel. While we are mindful of the work to be done to eliminate bias of all kinds within the ranks, the actions of one bad officer are not representative of the hard work and dedication of the force at large — nor of the leadership’s commitment to creating meaningful institutional change.”