Nearly 100 police officers in Philadelphia and St. Louis have been placed on desk duty or had their duties limited after a watchdog found them making bigoted posts on their public Facebook pages.
“Trump , trump , trump !!!” one Philly officer posted in March 2016, above a video of anti-Trump protesters on a road. “I can’t wait until someone has had enough , and just plows through these idiots !” Beneath the post, the officer’s friends talked about orally raping a female protester and shared a picture of a car smashing into a crowd.
The post was revealed as part of the Plain View Project, a two-year investigation started by Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White. The study combed through public Facebook posts of approximately 2,800 current and 700 recent officers in seven U.S. cities. The research surfaced a trove of posts championing bigotry and excessive force. Now some of those officers are facing repercussions.
Philadelphia’s police force is launching an independent investigation into the posts, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said in a Wednesday press conference.
“We are trying to deal with some of the worst postings first,” Ross said. The department has placed 72 officers on desk duty while it investigate their posts.
The investigation would take into account whether the posts were protected speech under the First Amendment. “If the speech is protected, no further action will be taken,” he said. “If the speech is not protected by the First Amendment, there will be discipline.”
Multiple posts from Philadelphia officers appeared to call for violence against Trump’s opponents.
“How long until a law abiding, gun permit carrying, Trump supporter decides his life is in danger and blows away one of these domestic terrorist democrats?” another current Philadelphia officer posted in June 2016. His friends, including current and former police officers, replied that they couldn’t wait.
St. Louis saw similar trends, including officers sharing virulently anti-Islam posts, and hoax articles falsely accusing billionaire George Soros of trying to take down Trump to support the “New World Order.” In the comments of that post, a former officer questioned “why don’t somebody shoot this ass hole?” while another friend posted Soros’ home address.
Other St. Louis police posts suggested white supremacist views. “When is White History Month?” read one sergeant’s post, alongside a white fist with the words “100% white, 100% proud.”
Another set advocated police violence. “I’m going to protect and serve the shit out of you,” read one officer’s meme, showing an officer about to punch a person.
St. Louis’ circuit attorney, Kimberly Gardner, responded by barring 22 of the officers from bringing cases to her circuit court this week.
“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,” Gardner wrote in a press 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.”
Other cities examined in the Plain View Project said they are investigating officers named in the study.
York City, Penn., declined to take action against its seven officers implicated in the study, but said that it would implement new social-media assessments of recent hires. Phoenix, Arizona, police said they were referring the matter to their Professional Standards Bureau. Police in that city had shared memes about shooting President Barack Obama and pepper spraying students.
“It’s a good day for a chokehold,” one Phoenix police officer wrote. He was not disciplined for the post, the Phoenix New-Times reported.