Ten Philadelphia police officers who “appear to have engaged in explicit bias” have been placed on desk duty as the department continues to investigate cops’ alleged Facebook posts flagged by an advocacy group as racist, intolerant, or otherwise offensive, officials said Thursday.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross also said in a statement that the entire 6,500-member force would undergo antibias training in response to the publication of the Plain View Project, a database professing to catalog problematic Facebook activity from police in eight jurisdictions nationwide, including Philadelphia.
In his statement, Ross said the department had asked a law firm — which he did not name — to help evaluate the Facebook posts or comments and who may have made them, and to help identify any that may have violated the department’s social media policy. The Plain View Project published the database Saturday, saying it included offensive material from about 330 active Philadelphia cops, some of whom were identified as high-ranking officers.
Ross said the investigation would respect the officers’ First Amendment rights, but said, “When a police officer’s expression of his or her opinions erodes the Police Department’s ability to do its job and maintain the public’s trust, the department is permitted to act.”
He added: “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.”
Ross said earlier this week that seven officers had been under Internal Affairs investigation since February, when reporters with Injustice Watch, a nonprofit news organization working on a story about the Plain View Project, provided the department with names of officers who allegedly made questionable posts. Following the publication of the full database on Saturday, Ross said the department would investigate every post or comment included in it.
Sgt. Eric Gripp, a police spokesperson, said Thursday that 10 officers whose alleged posts were considered among the most egregious had been placed on desk duty pending an Internal Affairs investigation. Gripp said he did not know the names of the 10 officers or if the seven officers previously under investigation were among them.
In his statement, Ross said that the department also would roll out antibias training “for all police personnel”; employ additional training on the department’s social media policies during roll call; and develop “an internal auditing process to monitor social media posts by police personnel.” He did not offer details on that process.
The Police Department is not the only Philadelphia agency reviewing the database. District Attorney Larry Krasner said Thursday on WHYY’s Radio Times that his office was evaluating whether any cops should be placed on his office’s list of police with potential credibility problems.
“I think it matters if you tell the world how you think,” Krasner said.