Thousands of Cops Across US Caught Advocating Violence, Racism on Social Media
“I can’t think of any other investigation that we’ve undertaken, at least in my 30 years, with that many people taken off the street at one time.”
After thousands of law enforcement officers allegedly posted offensive and troubling content on social media nationwide, 72 Philadelphia officers have been placed on administrative duty while the investigation is underway. The investigation began when a watchdog group, the Plain View Project, compiled thousands of offensive and racist comments from the police officers’ Facebook pages.
Offensive Social Media Content Compiled and Published
Injustice Watch and BuzzFeed were the first to report the database compiled by the Plain View Project. The collaboration revealed more than 5,000 disturbing posts and comments that “could undermine public trust in the police and reinforce the views of critics, especially in minority communities.”
According to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, the social media postings are “extremely disturbing.”
Kenney’s spokeswoman Deana Gamble stated publicly: “The content of the social media posts are antithetical to our administration’s values and simply won’t be tolerated. He is confident that the Commissioner will discipline officers accordingly when the investigation concludes.”
Since the investigation in Philadelphia began, officials in a variety of departments, including Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas are investigating whether posts made by some of their department members warrant “disciplinary action or termination.”
The Plain View Project found offensive material posted from approximately 2,900 officers, 300 of which are in Philadelphia. In addition, the project revealed offensive material from several hundred former police offices nationwide.
Social Media Postings Have Compromised Trust in Law Enforcement
The Philadelphia Police Department’s social media policy forbids personnel to use personal insults, derogatory language or profanity. Thus, the officers who allegedly posted offensive content directly violated the department’s guidelines.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross told multiple sources that the social media postings have damaged the department’s reputation: “This puts us in a position to work even harder than we already do to cultivate relationships with neighborhoods and individual groups that we struggle to work with or struggle to maintain relationships with now.” He added that “We will work tirelessly to repair that reputation.”
According to Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Paul Hetznecker, this problem has existed for a long time, especially in “city law enforcement.”
“We’re all aware of it,” Hetznecker stated publicly. “There’s not anyone who has been connected to the criminal justice system in Philadelphia who isn’t aware of the underlying problems of implicit bias and explicit bias that these posts reflect that have existed for a long, long time, for decades.”
“We’ve talked about from the outset how disturbing, how disappointing and upsetting these posts are. “They will undeniably impact police-community relations,” Ross stated to reporters.
Most Significant Removal of Police Officers from the Streets in Recent History
Philadelphia civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky, who specializes in police misconduct, called the decision to put the officers on administrative duty “significant.” He continued that this type of behavior is inconsistent with the department’s standards and pledge to treat all residents equally and fairly.
“More important will be the future decisions regarding sanctions or other measures to deal with this widespread problem in the police department,” Rudovsky said.
“I can’t think of any other investigation that we’ve undertaken, at least in my 30 years, with that many people taken off the street at one time,” Ross said.
As a result of the social media misconduct, the Philadelphia Police Department plans to conduct anti-racist and anti-biased training, as well as periodically audit officers’ social media accounts, Ross said.
Many Officers Will Lose Their Jobs Following Investigation
According to Ross, “several dozen” of the 72 officers on currently on administrative duty will receive disciplinary action, some of whose employment will be terminated.
The Philadelphia NAACP has asked Ross to fire all police officers who have published offensive content.
“There are some, sadly,” Ross said, “who won’t return to service here.”
Ross stated in a press conference on Wednesday, June 19th: “We are equally disgusted by many of the posts that you saw, that in many cases the rest of the nation saw. It makes me sick to be honest with you. It really makes me sick because we are in a position to know better!”
“We will not be shy about leading out the appropriate discipline, which could range for day off, to termination–which is probably going to happen for some of these officers,” he continued.
Majority of Law Enforcement Officers Serve with ‘Integrity and Professionalism’
After the press conference on the 19th, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #5 President John McNesby made a statement:
“It’s premature and irresponsible for the Commissioner to tell the public that police officers will be fired without a complete investigation into officers’ social media use. Our officers are entitled to due process just like any other citizen. FOP attorneys and leadership have been working around-the-clock protecting our members rights under the contract and free-speech. We will support and represent those officers during this overly-broad social-media investigation. Far too many officers have been taken off the street during a time of increased violence in our city. Also, it’s important for the public to understand that the vast majority of our officers serve the residents of Philadelphia with integrity and professionalism.”
According to Ross, concluding that all law enforcement officers are biased because of the activities of a small part of the department would be unfair.
“There are many, many thousands who don’t think like this and who wouldn’t engage in this kind of behavior,” Ross said. “Wouldn’t make sense to assume that everybody is a racist and everybody is Islamophobic and everybody is a sexist, because they’re not.”