A day after Philadelphia’s police commissioner said that some officers would be fired for posting offensive material on Facebook, a top union official pushed back on Thursday, saying any terminations for social media activity would be “completely out of bounds.”
John McGrody, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said that although some of the comments tied to city cops and cataloged on a database this month were offensive, “I don’t believe any Facebook posts merit firing, based on discipline that’s been handed out through the years.”
McGrody also said that Commissioner Richard Ross’ decision to pull 72 cops off street duty during an internal investigation impacted “far too many” officers, and that it was “highly irresponsible” for Ross to say before the inquiry ended that some would be fired.
“Cops, like anybody else in society, are entitled to due process,” McGrody said.
Ross declined to respond to McGrody’s comments.
The Police Department has been working with the law firm Ballard Spahr to investigate roughly 3,100 posts linked to Philadelphia cops by a police bias watchdog group that posted them on a database called the Plain View Project. The postings were allegedly made by 330 of the department’s 6,500 officers.
Ross said Wednesday that the investigation would seek to determine which posts or comments were constitutionally protected under the First Amendment, and which violated the department’s social media policy. The commissioner said he planned to announce initial disciplinary results in several weeks.
McGrody declined to specify what disciplinary outcomes he thought might be appropriate for those who posted offensive material, other than to say he did not believe anyone should be fired. He also said that some posts flagged by the Plain View Project were “obviously protected political speech,” such as comments about public officials.
Asked if the Police Department had a racism problem, as protesters have said in the wake of the database’s publication, McGrody said: “I’ve never seen it.… We look after the community, and we look after one another.”
He said many officers utilize social media for good, and “we condemn any racist or sexist post.”