PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia Police Department has asked for outside assistance with investigating hundreds of police officers’ alleged racist and violent social media posts. Ten officers have been placed on desk duty after the initial review, authorities say.
This is just the beginning of what could be a very long investigation.
It’s a social media firestorm, with hundreds of Philadelphia police officers, even some high-ranking lieutenants and sergeants, taking heat over alleged racist and violent posts on Facebook.
“What we have been told and read is both frustrating and disappointing,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said.
The comments were collected by researchers with the Plain View Project. In 2016, Philly-based attorneys began compiling Facebook posts from current and former officers in departments across the country.
Those posts appear to endorse violence, racism and bigotry.
“These postings represent what the NAACP calls cruel intentions,” Philadelphia NAACP President Minister Rodney Muhammad said.
So the Philadelphia Police Department is investigating. So far, 10 officers identified through their comments are now on desk duty, and Ross is asking for an outside law firm to investigate each case individually before making final decisions about disciplinary action.
“There is going to be, obviously, a lengthy investigation,” retired Philadelphia Police Lt. Steve Nolan said.
Nolan was with the department for 37 years — a chunk of that time with internal affairs.
“A police officer has a First Amendment right like everybody else,” Nolan said.
But making off-color comments, racist remarks and derogatory slurs are against police policy.
“We’re held to a higher standard as police officers,” Nolan said
Nolan says officers can be disciplined, even possibly fired for their public remarks.
“We’re trying to build up community relations — police and the community — and this has a tendency to obviously knock that down,” Nolan said. “Remember, you represent the department, as well as yourself.”
In a statement, Ross said the police department is taking the following steps:
— Anti-racist/anti-bias training for all police personnel.
— Additional roll call training on the social media, off-duty and race and discrimination policies.
— Internal auditing process to monitor social.
There is no word on the timeframe for when these measures will begin.