NAACP calls for firing Philly police who made offensive social media posts

Philadelphia Police Department headquarters at 7th and Race streets (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police Department headquarters at 7th and Race streets (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Philadelphia NAACP is calling for the city police department to fire officers who are found to have posted racist, violent, or offensive content on social media.

A Buzzfeed article published earlier this week detailed racist and offensive online posts that a watchdog group linked to 330 current and former Philadelphia officers. The article highlighted the findings of a group called the Plain View Project, which reviewed postings by officers across the country.

Minister Rodney Muhammed, president of the local NAACP,  held a press conference at City Hall Thursday to demand dramatic action to discipline officers who posted racist content on social media.

“We are calling on the high command, don’t let this go unanswered,” said Muhammed. “We want to see these officers disciplined and where there is evidence, and guilt is manifest, even removed.”

Soon after Muhammed spoke, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 10 officers had been put on desk duty.

In a statement issued later on Thursday, Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the department has hired an outside law firm to investigate the report’s findings.

“We must verify independently that the officers identified in the report actually made the comments attributed to them, many of which I find deeply disturbing and upsetting,” Ross said in a statement.

Ross says the postings are of varying degrees of severity. Punishments will be based upon both evidence of inappropriate conduct and seriousness of the offense.

“But to be clear, those officers that we have identified that appear to have engaged in explicit bias against any protected class of individual or who advocated any form of violence, will be immediately removed from street duty during the course of these investigations,” reads Ross’s statement.

Ross said the department will also conduct anti-racism training for all police personell and roll call training on proper use of social media. In the near future, he said an internal auditing process will be instituted to monitor social media posts by those employed by the police department.

The Fraternal Order of Police declined an interview, but FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby says he condemns racism and violence in all its forms.

“The overwhelming majority of our 7,000 officers regularly act with integrity and professionalism,” reads McNesby’s statement. “We simply ask, who is watching or policing those that target law enforcement with violence, racism, and unacceptable behavior?”

The NAACP’s Muhammed said the postings have shaken public faith in law enforcement. They are an indication, he said, that people of color are not safe.

“The NAACP takes the position that the private position stored up in [a person’s] heart is one thing but when you air your views on a public platform as a public servant, that’s inexcusable and unacceptable,” said Muhammed.

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