PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Over a dozen Philadelphia police officers will be fired for their racist and offensive social media posts, officials announced on Thursday. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross says 13 officers, including a sergeant, will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss.
Seventy-two officers were initially placed on administrative leave on June 19 after Plain View Project, a watchdog group, discovered the controversial posts of police officers who work in Philadelphia and in other cities around the country.
Ross said the researchers identified 3,100 offensive or potentially offensive Facebook posts from 328 active-duty Philly officers. Some of the entries were from as early as 2010.
Four officers will receive 30-day suspensions, three faced no discipline, and the remaining officers who were placed on desk duty will get a reprimand to a five-day suspension.
The department hired a law firm to review each post to make sure it was constitutionally protected.
The department targeted officers’ posts that advocated violence and speech against members in a protected class like ethnicity, race, religion and sex.
Some of the posts showed officers wanting to ram people with Obama bumper stickers and others calling those in the Black Lives Matter movement “racist pieces of [expletive].” There were also anti-Islamic posts and others that referred to African Americans as thugs and encouraged police brutality.
“That is disheartening to know that in 2019 that we still have people with these views, that not only have these views but that would take to social media in a very public space to expound on such views in a way that is absolutely sickening,” Ross said.
Ross said the department is working “tirelessly to make this situation better.”
“I am very troubled and I understand the dismay that the public would have because we have it as well,” he said.
The police commissioner says the department tries to expose officers to different types of things but realizes he can’t “wipe out people’s thoughts and minds.”
“It is so sad that it plays itself out in so many ways across this country, a country that is supposed to be the greatest country in the world that we have such hatred that doesn’t seem to end,” he said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said during Thursday’s press conference that he is “confident” in Ross’ leadership.
“He has my confidence, they have my confidence and we will address this truly unfortunate situation in the best way we can, but he’s the commissioner and they’re the [deputies] and I’m very confident in all of their abilities,” Kenney said.
Kenney added that he doesn’t blame the department’s leadership over the officers’ offensive posts.
“I think people have hate in their heart, they have hate in their hearts, and I don’t they there’s anything they can do to get the hate out of their hearts other than fire them, discipline them and train them,” he said.
The Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement the union is “disappointed that our officers will be terminated without due-process.”
“We are currently meeting with each officer to prepare an appropriate response to protect our members’ rights under the contract,” FOP President John McNesby said. “FOP Lodge #5 and our members condemn racist and hateful speech in any form. The overwhelming majority of our members serve this city with integrity and professionalism.”
Philadelphians seem to support the swift judgement and believe the firings will weed out the few officers who have caused a black eye for the department.
“I hope the person I’m calling for help can make good decisions and in the back of their mind, they’re not judging me or treating me based on my race or the way I look,” one man said.
The commissioner says no more firings are expected. The investigation is still ongoing.
CBS3’s Chantee Lans and Greg Argos contributed to this report.