Officers within the Philadelphia and St. Louis Police Departments are facing intense scrutiny and backlash following allegations over racist and hateful social media content.
According to CNN, the social media posts were collected and compiled by The Plain View Project, a self-described “database of public Facebook posts and comments made by current and former police officers from several jurisdictions across the United States.”
Seventy-two officers in Philadelphia were pulled off the streets and placed on administrative leave; while in St. Louis, the Circuit Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute cases where 22 officers serve as primary witnesses.
“When a police officer’s integrity is compromised in this manner, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our overall ability to pursue justice,” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said in a news release. “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.”
It is unclear how many cases this exclusion actually impacts.
Meanwhile, over in Philadelphia an investigation into its officers is underway, as they have been removed from the streets although they are still going in to work.
Earlier this month, the Philadelphia police department reviewed The Plain View Project’s database of posts made by officers.
An independent law firm is assisting with the investigation, and the department said that it will look over each post to determine whether the speech made was protected under the First Amendment.
“If the speech is determined to be protected, no further action will be taken,” Ross said. “An example would be an opinion on a matter of public concern that may be unpopular … but does not include threats of violence or pejorative language against any protected class.”
Some of the posts shown on The Plain View Project site include violent rhetoric, anti-Muslim sentiments, racist comments and Confederate imagery.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross called the posts “disturbing, disappoint and upsetting.”
The Philadelphia Police Department has also said they will work with the Anti-Defamation League to review its social media policies, and hopes to give an update about disciplinary action within the next few weeks.
“[The comments] will undeniably impact police-community relations … there’s no question that this puts us in the position to work even harder than we already do to cultivate relationships with neighborhoods and individual groups that we struggle to work with, even those that we have great relationships with,” Ross said.