The Philadelphia Police Department has curbed 72 officers off their regular duties after it was discovered that they reportedly made racially charged threatening messages across social media.
An investigation has been launched into the inflammatory posts that were revealed in a database that hosts thousands of offensive postings by current and former officers, the city’s police commissioner said Wednesday, MSN reports.
“We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.
Ross confirmed that 72 officers are on administrative duty, and some might be terminated for their alleged racist and violent social media posts. Meanwhile, hundreds of Philly officers have reportedly been accused of posting offensive messages online.
Ross has met with organizers of the Rally for Justice protest to discuss this pressing matter.
“We’ve talked about from the outset how disturbing, how disappointing and upsetting these posts are and how they will undeniably impact police-community relations and we’re not naïve to that fact and nor are we dismissive of it,” Ross said.
With the race soldiers being placed on administrative duty, they no longer will interact with the public, but the protest organizers are calling for all of the nearly 330 officers accused of racist and violent posts on social media assigned to desk duty and relieved of their department issued firearm.
“We believe that they are committed to working with the community and we are committed to keeping the pressure on so that they continue to work with the community around not only what happened with these Facebook posts, but is what is happening with the police contract and the Police Advisory Commission and other structural things that would keep this from happening again,” organizer Solomon Jones said.
The department’s Internal Affairs unit is allegedly working with an outside law firm to determine if the racist posts are protected under the First Amendment.
“Internal Affairs has identified and prioritized the posts clearly advocating violence or death against any protected class such as ethnicity, national origin, sex, religion and race. These officers have been removed from the street that fall under these categories,” Ross said.
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If the officer’s online hate speech is determined to be protected, no further action would be taken, Ross said.
“An example would be an opinion on a matter of public concern that may be unpopular but that does not include threats of violence or pejorative language against any protected class. If the speech is not protected by the First Amendment, the case will proceed with appropriate discipline,” Ross said.
The watchdog group Plain View Project discovered the controversial posts from police officers who work in Philadelphia and in cities around the country.
Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby previously said in a statement, “The FOP will continue to represent members in this overly-broad social-media investigation. We’ve been informed that those officers under investigation will be interviewed within days of being notified and will be returned to duty shortly thereafter. The FOP and our members utilize social media on a regular basis to bring people together and support one another. It is sad that the investigators with the ‘social justice’ group chose to ignore all the good work done regularly by our officers. During this difficult climate in which police officers are constantly under attack, the FOP will continue to support you.”