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72 Philadelphia cops moved to desk duty over allegations of offensive social media posts

Police commissioner says dozens will be disciplined and some will likely be fired

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has pulled 72 officers off the streets in the midst of an investigation over their online behavior, and says he expects some of them will likely be fired for making offensive Facebook posts.

What are the details?

Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News and Injustice Watch reported on a new database compiled by The Plain View Project, which scoured the Facebook feeds of thousands of current and former police officers in the U.S. to expose posts and messages that "could undermine public trust and confidence in our police."

According to NPR, the findings prompted internal investigations by a number of police departments including Phoenix, St. Louis, and Dallas.

CNN reported that Philadelphia announced its own investigation earlier this month, and on Wednesday, Commissioner Ross said dozens of officers from the force have been implicated and moved to desk duty while awaiting their fate — which, for some, could be termination. Posts from more than 300 Philadelphia officers were identified by The Plain View Project.

"We've talked about, from the outset, how disturbing, how disappointing and upsetting these posts are, and they will undeniably impact police-community relations," Ross said. "There's no question that this puts us in a position to work even harder than we already do to cultivate relationships with neighborhoods and individual groups who we struggle to work with or struggle to maintain relationships with now."

The department has hired a private law firm to read through more than 3,000 posts flagged for possibly being offensive, and assist in determining whether the messages are protect under the First Amendment.

Not everyone agrees with how the investigation is being handled. John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia police union told Time in an email statement, "It's premature and irresponsible for the commissioner to tell the public that police officers will be fired without a complete investigation into officers' social media use.

"Our officers are entitled to due process just like any other citizen," he added.

What did the posts say?

WCAU-TV reported one Philadelphia sergeant commented online that a suspect should be "taken out back and put down like the rabid animal that he is," and another posted a meme that read, "Death to Islam." Buzzfeed reported that six years ago, one officer using an alias commented on a post, "should have shot him."

One last thing…
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