Quantcast
Connect with us

How this database is tracking and exposing cops’ bigoted Facebook posts

Published

on

It’s a good day for a chokehold.

This was the Facebook post of a Phoenix police officer.

In a different post, a Philadelphia police lieutenant recounted a courthouse scene in which a defendant and his family walk off an elevator: “… indignant about the fact that those of us actually working are going the other way. I fucking hate them.”

Another lieutenant commented: “I fucking hate the [sic] too.”

An online database called the Plain View Project has collected more than 5,000 bigoted, racist, sexist, Islamophobic Facebook postings and comments like these by former and current law enforcement officers in jurisdictions across the country.

ADVERTISEMENT

The database was started two years ago by attorney Emily Baker-White, who was investigating a police brutality claim as a fellow in the Federal Community Defender Office in Philadelphia when she came across vitriolic public Facebook posts by several police officers.

“One stirred me,” Baker-White told CNN. “It was a meme of a police dog trying to run after something. Its teeth were bared, it was being restrained, and the text over the picture was, ‘I hope you run, he likes fast food.’”

She created the database, she said, to show the pervasiveness of such online behavior by police officers.

ADVERTISEMENT

Recently, the project’s findings have triggered internal investigations, a few terminations, suspensions, and reassignments of officers in several police departments nationwide.

Last week, the Philadelphia Police Department used it as the basis for reassigning 72 of its officers—an action Police Commissioner Richard Ross called the single largest removal of officers from street duty in his three-decade career.

“We’ve talked about from the outset how disturbing, how disappointing and upsetting these posts are,” Ross said at a press conference. He called them “inconsistent with the department’s promise of fair and equal treatment for all residents. They will undeniably impact police-community relations.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In St. Louis, circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner said she would no longer accept cases from 22 officers whose comments and postings are included in the database. Seven of them have been banned permanently, meaning her office won’t issue charges based on their investigations, won’t apply for search warrants they seek, and won’t consider cases in which they are essential witnesses.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams in a statement called the language in the posts “embarrassing and disturbing.” She said she has asked the department’s Professional Standards Bureau to “look further into this matter.”

Dallas police said it is investigating the database information, and plans to make the results of their investigation public.

ADVERTISEMENT

Additionally, the database contains comments and postings from officers in Twin Falls, Idaho; York, Pennsylvania; and Denison, Texas.

The revelations come at a time of simmering outrage over bias and brutality in American policing, particularly in Black communities, where the shooting of unarmed Black men by the police have fueled the Movement for Black Lives.

And while some have raised concerns over the officers’ free speech rights, the comments and posts offer a disturbing glimpse into the impulses of some of the uniformed men and women charged with serving and protecting the very communities they disparage.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The public should interpret this as a snapshot of how some police officers behave—and, perhaps, what they think—when the veil is lifted and the police subculture is exposed,” said Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Stinson said he was “impressed with the ‘outside-the-box’ methodology used by the Plain View Project to tackle a hard-to-research area.”

A former police officer, he created a police crime database to track and study arrests of police nationwide. “I’ve been surprised by how seriously some police departments, particularly the Philadelphia Police Department, have taken this in terms of seemingly taking officers off the street while internal investigations are conducted,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

In total, the Plain View Project database contains postings and comments by 2,800 current and about 700 former officers. They include racist memes and comments to posts celebrating violence, many of them against people of color.

In response to a man in handcuffs, for example, one officer posted mockingly: “‘they beat me up.’ You’re lucky you POS. You should have been shot dead!!!”

A different Philly officer posted a year before the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia: “I can’t wait until someone has had enough, and just plows through these idiots!” The text was above a video of anti-Trump protesters.

ADVERTISEMENT

The posters in the database range in rank from officers to captains.

Screenshots of their comments or posts are published along with metadata collected from publicly available sources showing their badge numbers, titles, salaries, and employment status—current or former.

The site also provides a link to officers’ Facebook pages, so users can view the original post.

ADVERTISEMENT

In Philadelphia, Ross said his department has hired a law firm to sift through posts identified as offensive to determine whether they are protected under the First Amendment. He said he expects several dozen will be disciplined and some will lose their jobs.

Additionally, antibias and antiracist training will be conducted across the department, which will launch periodic audits of officers’ social media accounts.

Baker-White’s group said the postings it included in the database were selected because the viewpoints they expressed “could be relevant to important public issues.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“We do not know what the poster meant when he or she typed them. We only know that when we saw them, they concerned us.”

Lornet Turnbull wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Lornet is an editor for YES!, a Seattle-based freelance writer, and a regional freelance writer for the Washington Post. Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @TurnbullL.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

OAN’s Kremlin journalist proves the ‘merger between Russian state-sponsored propaganda and American conservative media’ is complete: Former FBI special agent

Published

on

Its headlines look like they're written to please an audience of one.

"Political Strategist: President Trump’s reelection looks good in state-by-state analysis of chances."

"Pres. Trump touts strong approval rating as economy remains solid."

"GOP businesswoman Scherie Murray announces campaign for AOC’s seat."

It's been called an "obscure" pay-cable TV station, but One America News Network, which at time feels more like Fox News than Fox News, is President Donald Trump's new favorite news channel. It worked hard to get there, and as a 2017 Washington Post article noted its "taking ‘pro-Trump’ to new heights."

Continue Reading

2020 Election

Mike Pence to headline ‘intimate’ $35,000 per couple fundraiser at gay-owned private club

Published

on

Location reportedly revealed by chef during hearing on felony assault and domestic violence charges

Vice President Mike Pence will headline a $35,000-per-couple fundraiser at a private club owned by two gay men in Aspen, Colorado Monday evening.

The invitation, sent by Bob Jenkins, vice chair of Pitkin County Republicans, calls it "an intimate high dollar reception," and says, "we would like you to participate if possible. Additionally, please quietly spread the word," according to The Aspen Times.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Man who believed ‘the Bible is for white people’ gets life in prison after setting black man on fire in gruesome murder

Published

on

A white man from Tennessee has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of murdering a black man by setting him on fire while he slept.

The Daily News Journal reports that 53-year-old John Carothers has pleaded guilty to murdering Robert Miller, a housemate who lived with him at the Frazier Young Supportive Living, which is a home for people with intellectual disabilities.

According to prosecutors, Carothers in March 2018 doused Miller in lighter fluid while he was asleep in his bed and then lit him on fire. Miller would subsquently die from burn-related injuries at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

Join Me. Try Raw Story Investigates for $1. Invest in Journalism. Escape Ads.
close-image