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The Philadelphia Police Department has put 72 officers on desk duty for writing hundreds of racist, violent, and homophobic Facebook posts, according to the results of a recent investigation.
A group of Philadelphia-based attorneys, the “Plain View Project," revealed the misconduct earlier this month when they released the public-facing Facebook accounts of officers at eight jurisdictions across the United States. So far, officials in three of those jurisdictions — Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Phoenix — have taken concrete steps to address the posts.
At least several dozen of the 72 officers in Philadelphia will be disciplined, and others will be fired, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said Wednesday. The decision comes after protests in the city over the racist posts.
“We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and, in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” Ross added.
Many of the Philadelphia officers’ posts compiled by the Plain View Project advocated violence against protesters. Some officers shared memes that joked about plowing vehicles into crowds of protesters — not unlike the meme shared by the young neo-Nazi James Fields, who later drove his car into a crowd of protesters at the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer while injuring dozens of others.
Other officers shared fake news articles about Muslims and made violently Islamophobic comments. “All I want from the government is to defend this country against Islam,” wrote one officer in August 2016. “I will protect my family with an AR-15.”
Also in response to the Plain View Project’s investigation, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, the city’s head prosecutor, added 22 names earlier this week to a list of officers banned from submitting cases to her office for investigation. Gardner said seven of those officers are permanently banned, meaning their investigative work will not be considered credible, and she’s reviewing the work of the remaining 15 officers.
“After careful examination of the underlying bias contained in those social media posts, we have concluded that this bias would likely influence an officer’s ability to perform his or her duties in an unbiased manner,” Gardner said.
According to the Plain View Project’s work, St. Louis officers also shared posts advocating white power and violence against Muslims and protesters.
For example, one officer shared an image in May 2016 of a white farmer with the text “When is white history month?” alongside a white fist surrounded with the words “100% white, 100% proud.”
Earlier this month, the Phoenix Police Department began reviewing hundreds of racist posts by nearly 100 current and former officers, who called black people “thugs” and wrote things like “good day for a chokehold.”
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said she was “shocked” by some of the posts and had assigned some officers to desk duty. An investigation by the Phoenix New Times found that 11 of the Phoenix officers included in the database had been accused of killing or gravely injuring people.
Cover image: Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speaks with members of the media during a news conference in Philadelphia, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)