Penn may have quietly fired a University police captain months after she allegedly assaulted a Philadelphia high school student.
Destine McCleary, a high school senior at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she filed a complaint through Penn's Division of Public Safety against Nicole McCoy — Penn Police's former commanding officer of diversity, equity, and inclusion — on Dec. 23, after McCoy allegedly physically assaulted her while in uniform. McCleary's mother, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the case, said she was told by DPS that they initially suspended McCoy with pay in January and was later told on March 21 that they had fired her.
In response to multiple requests for comment, DPS wrote that they do not comment on personnel matters. The DP attempted to contact McCoy through her DPS email and LinkedIn but was unable to reach her for comment.
McCleary contacted the DP after the publication reported that McCoy was no longer employed by DPS earlier this month.
McCleary alleged that, at around 2:45 p.m. on Dec. 21, McCoy involved herself in an altercation on the sidewalk outside of SLA Beeber, a Philadelphia public school located at 5925 Malvern Ave. McCleary said that McCoy was waiting outside the school in a Range Rover with two other women, one of whom McCleary alleged is McCoy’s daughter, as students left the school building and walked to a bus stop.
McCleary said the women started verbally attacking a group of ninth grade students before a physical altercation began. She told the DP that she believes McCoy has another daughter in ninth grade at SLA Beeber.
McCleary said that she was one of only a few seniors accompanying a group of ninth grade students when the situation escalated, which motivated her to try to resolve the dispute.
"In the middle of me trying to defuse the situation, [McCoy] had punched me in the left side of my mouth,” McCleary said. “Then she just started harassing me.”
The same day, McCleary said that she went to the 19th District police station to report the incident that had occurred with McCoy. McCleary’s mother said that the family is still waiting for a Philadelphia police detective to begin investigating the case.
Philadelphia crime logs show that an assault was recorded at 3:45 p.m. on Dec. 21 on 5900 Malvern Ave., near where the school is located.
At the time of the incident, McCleary said she did not know that McCoy was employed by Penn Police, but she said that McCoy appeared to be wearing a uniform during the altercation. McCleary said that at the 19th District police station, an officer named all of the members involved in the incident, including McCoy. She then searched McCoy’s name and discovered her affiliation with Penn.
McCleary’s mother added that her daughter reviewed videos taken by students who witnessed the event, and the videos show that McCoy’s name was included on the vehicle she exited, which displayed a police symbol.
It is unclear whether or not McCoy was on duty during the incident.
On Dec. 23, two days after the incident, McCleary said she and her mother visited the Penn Police station, where Chief of Police Gary Williams instructed them to file a complaint either online or in person. McCleary said she filed a complaint with DPS that day.
After filing an initial complaint online, McCleary said she met with University police and detectives multiple times.
McCleary’s mother said that Penn told her during meetings and interviews that McCoy was initially suspended with pay.
At a meeting on Feb. 7, McCleary said she received a letter from DPS signed by Williams. She provided the DP with a photo of the letter, in which Williams apologized for McCoy's "unprofessional" conduct and confirmed that she had been disciplined.
“As outlined by your complaint, the interactions were thoroughly investigated by Deputy Chief Michael Morrin," Williams wrote in the letter. "After careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances of the matter, Deputy Chief Morrin has indicated to me that he was able to sustain your complaint that our Officer acted in an unprofessional manner. The Officer's actions during this incident were addressed formally with discipline."
McCleary said that Williams told her she would be “very satisfied” with the disciplinary action taken against McCoy, but McCleary said that not knowing if McCoy was still employed by DPS troubled her.
“I was not satisfied with the conclusion because I had just gotten a letter, but that still did not take away the trauma,” McCleary said.
Because they did not know whether McCoy was still employed, McCleary and her mother contacted DPS a second time for more information. During a follow-up meeting with Williams and Vice President for Public Safety Kathleen Shields Anderson on March 21, McCleary said that she was informed that McCoy had been terminated on Feb. 7, the day she received the letter. According to McCleary, Anderson told her that DPS could not inform her of the status of McCoy’s employment at the time because Anderson was not present at the meeting.
McCleary’s mother expressed skepticism that DPS was telling the truth. The mother told the DP that she thinks that McCoy was still employed until the March 21 meeting.
“How is it that you're allowed to tell me that she's suspended with pay, but you can't tell me if she is terminated or not?” McCleary’s mother said to the DP.
McCleary’s mother expressed frustration with the disciplinary process, adding that her daughter had to miss school for numerous meetings. She also said that the letter from DPS was not satisfactory, saying that she wished that they had offered her daughter therapy.
“If she were a [Penn] student, would she have been treated any differently?” the mother said.
Nevertheless, McCleary’s mother said she was relieved that McCoy was no longer employed by Penn.
“I’m glad that she was terminated, because who was to say that she would not have done it again,” the mother said.
McCleary added that she had been admitted to Penn as a member of the Class of 2027, but the incident and how DPS handled it has made her question whether she should attend.
“The whole incident kind of made me change my mind about going to school,” McCleary said, adding that representatives from DPS told her to not let the incident determine her decision and offered to arrange meetings with certain major departments.
Anderson told the DP on March 22, the day after McCleary said she met with Anderson and was informed of McCoy's termination, that McCoy was no longer employed by Penn.
McCoy first joined the Penn Police Department as a patrol officer in 2002. She rose to the role of patrol lieutenant before she was appointed as the police department's first commanding officer of DEI in 2021, when she was also promoted to captain.
McCoy's unexpected departure, which was not initially made public, leaves the position vacant. Two articles about McCoy on Penn Today now display the message "Page Not Found" when loaded. DPS is currently reassessing its diversity, equity, and inclusion program before appointing someone to the position that McCoy held, Anderson previously told the DP.