More than 70 Philadelphia police officers on desk duty over racist, violent Facebook posts

By Erin Donaghue

/ CBS News

Officers flagged for racist posts

Philadelphia police confirm more than 70 officers have been taken off the streets and placed on desk duty while authorities investigate hundreds of officers' alleged racist and violent social media posts, reports CBS Philly. The social media posts were unearthed by the Plain View Project, an initiative started in 2017 by a group of attorneys in Philadelphia.

The group reviewed Facebook posts and comments by 3,500 officers or former officers from eight police jurisdictions across the country, including St. Louis, Dallas and Philadelphia. They maintain a database of about 5,000 Facebook posts and comments that they say could undermine public trust and confidence in police.

The posts by Philadelphia officers include sexist, racist and and bigoted language and images, along with calls for violence, CBS Philly reports. Ten officers were initially placed on desk duty when the findings were first revealed earlier this month.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross CBS News

"We've talked about from the outset how disturbing, how disappointing and upsetting these posts are and how they will undeniably impact police-community relations and we're not naive to that fact and nor are we dismissive of it," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said Wednesday.

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Protesters have called for all of the nearly 330 Philadelphia officers accused of posting disturbing comments assigned to desk duty as the investigation continues, the station reports.

"These public postings by active duty police officers are appalling. Blatantly violent and racist comments like this indicate a level of impunity and indifference to public accountability," said Councilmember Helen Gym. "This isn't just about correcting individual acts of misconduct — it is about demanding the accountability that our communities deserve."

Ross said it's possible that some of the officers would return to duty after discipline, while others would not be returning to the department. He said the department is bringing on an outside law firm to help investigate the posts and refer the findings to internal affairs.

Ross said it would take time to investigate the thousands of posts. He also said all police personnel will undergo anti-bias training.

In a statement released to CBS Philly, Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby called the investigation "overbroad."

The move comes the same day that St. Louis Circuit Prosecutor Kim Gardner announced 22 St. Louis police officers identified by the Plain View Project will be barred from presenting evidence to her office due to racist and anti-Muslim Facebook posts.

First published on June 19, 2019 / 5:48 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Erin Donaghue

Erin Donaghue reports and writes for CBSNews.com on topics including criminal justice, social justice and culture. Follow her on Twitter at @ErinDonaghue.

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