Philadelphia police fires 13 cops after officers outed for racist, violent social media posts

The Philadelphia Police Department plans to fire 13 cops after it launched an investigation last month into racist and violent comments posted by cops on social media.

Richard Ross, the city’s police commissioner, said in a news conference Thursday that another four officers would receive 30-day suspensions before returning to service, and a range of less harsh punishments would be dished to other officers.

“I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts, many of which in my view violate the basic tenants of human decency” Ross told reporters. “And I am saddened by the fact that there are even some who would attempt to justify such hate and vile behavior.”

The department placed 72 officers on desk duty a month ago as it proceeded with the investigation. The city’s top cop said all but three of those taken off the street would face some form of discipline, such as five-day suspensions.

Ross said the department had to consider constitutional speech rights when determining punishments. He did not name the officers who will be sacked.

The police force opened the investigation after the Plain View Project unearthed Facebook posts from more than 300 Philadelphia officers that researchers felt could harm trust in local law enforcement.

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Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speak during a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 18, 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department is suspending 13 police officers with an intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speak during a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 18, 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department is suspending 13 police officers with an intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, accompanied by Police Commissioner Richard Ross speak during a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 18, 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department is suspending 13 police officers with an intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross speak during a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 18, 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department is suspending 13 police officers with an intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, listens to Police Commissioner Richard Ross speak during a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 18, 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department is suspending 13 police officers with an intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, speaks with members of the media in Philadelphia, Thursday, July 18, 2019. The Philadelphia Police Department is suspending 13 police officers with an intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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One officer posted a picture of the Confederate flag, according to a screenshot captured in the project’s database. Another posted a meme that said, “Death To Islam.” Numerous posts in the database described black men as “animals.”

Lawyer Emily Baker-White launched the Plain View project in 2017, and it went live at the beginning of June. When the department launched its investigation, Baker-White told the Daily News she was “encouraged” by the response of Ross and other public officials to the project.

Ross said the investigation, conducted with the law firm Ballard Spahr, is not yet completed. He said the department will continue to investigate “far less egregious” posts from officers who did not receive suspensions.

Ross also said the department would initiate sensitivity training for officers and continue to attempt to repair trust with the community.

“We’re aware of the dismissals and disappointed that our officers will be terminated without due process,” said Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby, according to CNN.

The Plain View Project also cataloged posts from seven other areas, including St. Louis and Dallas.

In St. Louis, the city’s top chief prosecutor added 22 cops to a list of officers her office won’t take cases from, and the police department launched an investigation. A police union there asked its members to post a Punisher symbol in solidarity with officers under investigation.

Ross said he understood why the posts from officers in his force sparked dismay across the Philadelphia community. He described the posts as a “black eye” on the department.

“We will work tirelessly to make this situation better,” Ross said. “We know it will take a tremendous amount of effort.”

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