Philadelphia police are investigating threats directed toward the president of a black officers league after her organization accused the now-disabled Web site Domelights.com of hosting racist material.
After the Guardian Civic League sued Domelights last week in federal court, several postings on the site attacked league president Rochelle Bilal.
One said she "deserves to be gang-raped."
Bilal, a sworn officer who works in narcotics intelligence, has been assigned officers from the dignitary protection unit to guard her during the investigation.
Two uniformed officers accompanied Bilal Wednesday night at a meeting at Guardian Civic League headquarters.
The investigation is to "determine if the threat requires any further police action," said Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman.
Domelights, which is administered by a police sergeant, had been a public forum until this week, when access was restricted to registered users.
Last night, the site was disabled. A message posted by the site operator read: "Until further notice, all Domelights.com services (i.e. forums, galleries, blogs) have been suspended. Thank you. McQ"
While the site is commonly seen as a forum for police to discuss crime news and gossip, not all of its members are active-duty officers.
"If the person making the threat is identified, they will face the same action criminally" whether it's an officer or a civilian, Vanore said.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey initiated the investigation, Vanore said. Bilal did not file a complaint.
"The commissioner felt that he wanted to do an assessment," Vanore said. "He doesn't like to take any chances."
The dignitary-protection officers guarding Bilal work out of the Homeland Security Unit. Vanore said it's not uncommon for officers and politicians to receive threats that require an assessment and protection.
Guardian Civic League attorney Brian Mildenberg, who said he would speak for Bilal on this matter, said he was aware of the investigation but did not want to comment further.
Bilal previously described those who posted comments about her as "cowards" and said Wednesday that she "definitely" wanted to see the site taken down.
Domelights has long been reviled by black officers, who view it as a forum for racist rants, according to the lawsuit. White officers have posted to Domelights while on duty, creating a hostile work environment for black officers, the suit said.
The Police Department and the city have blocked access to Domelights on their computers since the suit was filed.
The Guardian Civic League also is seeking a ban on officers posting racially offensive material, even on their own time.
The sergeant who founded the site said in a posting shortly after the suit was filed that he disavows any racist or sexist comments on the site and that he never administers Domelights while on duty.
The sergeant uses the screen name McQ, but his profile on Domelights contains the name Fred McQuiggan, a sergeant who works at Police Headquarters.
McQuiggan wrote a letter to the editor, published in The Inquirer in 2004, that included his Domelights e-mail address. He has not responded to several e-mails to that address.
In his recent postings to Domelights, McQ said he would not comment further on the lawsuit.
Mildenberg said the site created a public-safety issue because "it makes it more difficult for officers to do their jobs."
He also said McQ, as a police officer, "clearly should have realized there are some questionable characters" posting on Domelights.