Patterico's Pontifications


Philadelphia: 72 Police Officers Off Active Duty For Offensive Social Media Posts

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:49 am

[guest post by Dana]

Taking priority in the city of Brotherly Love and a city which has seen 153 victims of homicide so far this year (up 9% from one year ago):

The number of Philly police officers taken off the streets and placed on administrative duty for making racist and offensive posts on Facebook has increased to 72, the department announced Wednesday.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said that of the 72 removed during the department’s initial investigation, discipline will range from a few days suspension “in many cases” and up to termination from the police force.

“Internal affairs has already begun to investigate each of these officers identified,” Ross said during a press conference.

“We recognize that because of the acts of a few … that in many ways, we understand how this can tarnish or did tarnish our reputation. But we will work tirelessly to repair that reputation, to improve police community relations, as we are equally disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and the rest of the nation saw,” he added.

The removal of the officers is described as “the largest removal of officers from the street in recent memory.”


The department has hired the private law firm Ballard Spahr to sift through the 3,100 posts identified as containing offensive messages. The firm will help determine whether the post was protected under the First Amendment, Ross said.

Additionally, anti-bias and anti-racist training will be conducted across the department, and officers will be reminded of what constitutes appropriate behavior on social media, according to Ross. Officials will also launch periodic audits of police officers’ social media accounts.

The department’s social media policy prohibits profanity, discriminatory language or personal insults.

Philadelphia currently has approximately 6,500 police officers. The 72 officers represent about 1.11% of officers.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


35 Responses to “Philadelphia: 72 Police Officers Off Active Duty For Offensive Social Media Posts”

  1. I couldn’t find confirmation anywhere that the 72 officers taken off patrol have been replaced.

    Dana (bb0678)

  2. Kim gardner, remember her, is doing the same I st. Louis, because they can spare so many officers. Btw how about bureau tissabys indictment on perjury grounds.

    Narciso (478783)

  3. As is often the case, the devil is in the details. “Offensive” can cover a broad range of statements, some good reason to fire someone (e.g, overtly racist statements) to mere political statements. (Note that “MAGA” is deemed offensive and racist by many people.)

    Some examples would be useful to understand what is really happening. Would not surprise me if there was overreach.

    Bored Lawyer (998177)

  4. I think police officers should refrain from making racist social media posts if for no other reason that it could create the perception that proper law enforcement is motivated by racial animus.

    I think openly racist police officers are a problem. If you’re political views are that a given race inferior / defective I think it’s going to be very hard to do a good job as a police officer.

    I also think that government employees should have a right to free expression.

    I’m with bored lawyer that the devil is in the details here.

    Time123 (6e0727)

  5. ross like gardner, has actually decided not to go after criminals, because that’s how soros wants it,

    narciso (d1f714)

  6. I think that police officers should either refrain from making controversial statements on social media, or refrain from identifying as police officers on social media.

    The latter is probably impossible. From my experience on Facebook, no matter what affiliation you would prefer not to display online, one or more of the friends you have linked, whose similar affiliation is the reason they are linked, will shout it from the rooftops and connect you with them while they do it.

    So, to the degree their police employment is obvious online, this probably curtails their first amendment rights. The liberal ratchet is then invoked, where only some things are offensive.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  7. Bored Lawyer,

    I found these examples compiled by the advocacy group that spearheaded the project:

    The group began its work after it found posts where “officers commented that apprehended suspects—often black men— ‘should be dead’ or ‘should have more lumps on his head.

    In other Facebook conversations, officers advocated shooting looters on sight and using cars to run over protestors,” the group’s website says. “Numerous posts deemed Islam ‘a cult, not a religion’ and referred to Muslims as ‘savages’ and ‘goat-humpers.’ And, in still others, officers appeared to joke about beating and raping women.”

    Dana (657ffd)

  8. 1.% of the officer total; so 3% of a 24 hour shift; more if we allow for sick days and vacations. More still when you remember that officers have to fill out long reports and testify.

    If remaining officers have to “cover” hot spots and leave other areas unpatrolled, the impact on unpatrolled or under-patrolled areas is higher still.

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd (6b1442)

  9. Dana:

    I agree that those examples are certainly a basis for discipline, if not dismissal.

    But one must be wary — examples are often the worst examples. I would want to see the full range of what they deem “offensive.”

    (You have the same thing when it is claimed that 25% of college women experience “sexual assault.” That term can meaning anything from full blown rape, to an unwelcome pat on the behind.)

    Bored Lawyer (998177)

  10. I’ve said before, and will say again, to anyone who’ll listen:

    Dance like no one’s watching. Post, text, and email like it will be read aloud over the courtroom public address system.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  11. 1.% of the officer total; so 3% of a 24 hour shift

    You may want to re-check that math. If 1% of the police force is suspended, then there are, on average, 1% fewer officers on duty for any time span, whether it’s eight hours, 24 hours, two seconds, or two weeks. It’s not like a bank account with 1% interest that is calculated every eight hours.

    norcal (0fda76)

  12. So what’s this really about the da decides he wont go after starter offenses, then some public spirited outfit goes through cops social media, same with gardner in st. Louis.

    Narciso (478783)

  13. “Dance like no one’s watching. Post, text, and email like it will be read aloud over the courtroom public address system.”

    That’s great. I’m going to pass that one along.

    harkin (e5c973)

  14. They should have trashed their phones, and bleech bit their computers, that’s how you DOJ it.

    Narciso (478783)

  15. @ harkin (#13): As free legal advice goes, that’s probably the second most important. Relatedly, and first on the list: “You have the right to remain silent; USE IT!”

    Beldar (fa637a)

  16. 15. To coin a turn of phrase (h/t Ron White), some people have the right to remain silent, but not the ability. 😉

    Gryph (08c844)

  17. Golly.

    Guess Harvard is out for these coppers. But then, Hollywood caling: the cast of Policy Academy 72 will work for scale.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  18. WASHINGTON (AP) — A 40-foot-tall, World War I memorial cross can continue to stand on public land in Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in an important decision about the use of religious symbols in American life.

    The justices said preserving a long-standing religious monument is very different from allowing the building of a new one. And the court concluded that the nearly 100-year-old memorial’s presence on a grassy highway median doesn’t violate the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over others. Seven of the court’s nine justices sided with the cross’ backers, a lineup that crossed ideological lines.

    harkin (e5c973)

  19. Guess Harvard is out for these coppers.

    Yup. They might as well not bother applying.

    nk (dbc370)

  20. I agree that those examples are certainly a basis for discipline, if not dismissal.

    I don’t agree. Not if it was on their own time, and not on government computers. They do have that much of a First Amendment right, not to mention civil service and union contract protection. A conversation with their sergeant and maybe a counselor, yeah.

    nk (dbc370)

  21. nk,

    Even if they identify online as police officers?

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  22. seems a little hit or miss, note they didn’t just go through facebook:

    narciso (d1f714)

  23. I don’t see how that matters, Kevin. If it’s only talk. If an investigation shows they put their “locker room talk” into practice on the job, that’s a different ball-game.

    nk (dbc370)

  24. I agree with nk’s #22, and note that with his typical concision, he’s identified three distinct sources of the rights which these officers might assert in court.

    Note: In general, a private sector, non-union, at-will employee who’s fired for off-duty expression of his or her viewpoints may have no such rights. The First Amendment binds government, not private parties. But: some progressive state and city governments have, by statute, created such rights as against private employers, and their state courts are likely to enforce those. Also but: Arguably such state or city laws are vulnerable to challenge as being a violation of the employers’ rights under federal law. So it’s a merry dance that drives down predictability and drives up everyone’s legal expenses (which are among the many reasons I oppose such state and local laws).

    Therefore: Be careful generalizing, and be sure you’ve consulted state and local law for the locale.

    Or move to Texas.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  25. Off-topic but among the most distressing news today: Evil Zombie Roy Moore to Make Second Senate Bid in Alabama.

    (Okay, maybe I added those first two words to the WSJ’s headline.)

    Beldar (fa637a)

  26. Beldar
    I think it was you who mentioned a book about Ben Franklin in his early years. Could you tell me the name of the book? Thanks.

    mg (8cbc69)

  27. If a public official is using his personal Facebook or Twitter account regularly for the purpose of sending out statements on behalf of the public entity that employs him, and doesn’t have a separate social media account for his personal use, then he runs a risk that his postings will indeed be treated as being done in his official capacity.

    If his private social media accounts merely reveal his employment, and never purport to speak on behalf of his public entity employer, no such implication arises.

    Consider our host’s situation, and his extraordinary, consistent care to scrupulously avoid ever speaking on behalf of his employer, and his regular, repeated, consistent disclaimers that he’s doing so. He knows from personal experience, alas, that such can’t keep a convicted bomber and perjurer like Brett Kimberlin from inflicting incredible stress, distraction, and woe through utterly frivolous litigation in which Kimberlin claimed our host somehow was acting in his day-job official capacity when blogging here, even though free speech, and our host, ultimately won.

    (Note: I do not purport to speak for our host, much less his employer, as if any Texan going online by “Beldar” could possibly be thought to be speaking for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. The only proper response to such a suggestion is this one.)

    Beldar (fa637a)

  28. Um they went after Dallas pd and lake county FL, and some obscure town, thr process about how they got here Is sketchy, some attys heard about posts from persons who might be police officers three years ago. Not persons who were under criminal investigation mind you.

    Narciso (478783)

  29. You’re right, it was me, mg (#29), and the book is Nick Bunker’s Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity (2018). Highly recommended: It has amazingly fresh insights into Franklin’s later lives as a scientist and then a statesman, things both explanatory and revelatory; and it’s filled with granular details about pre-Revolutionary times in both Britain and its American colonies. About all I knew before regarding this period of Franklin’s life was “he was a printer” and “he wrote Poor Richard’s Almanac.” Wow, was I ignorant about him, as compared to most of the other Founding Fathers and their backgrounds!

    Beldar (fa637a)

  30. Thanks a bunch, Beldar.
    Just ordered it. I have plenty of time for good reads.

    mg (8cbc69)

  31. The question I have is how many other PDs are undertaking these IA social media investigations.

    Paul Montagu (cbbfc4)

  32. While generally even public employees have First Amendment rights regarding what they do off duty, if that expression indicates a willingness to abuse their authority, then that can be a basis for discipline.

    For example: “officers commented that apprehended suspects—often black men— ‘should be dead’ or ‘should have more lumps on his head.”

    That kind of comment shows lack of professionalism and willingness to abuse your position. Police can use force to apprehend and subdue suspects, not to inflict punishment. If they don’t understand them, then the State does not have to grant them its authority to act in its behalf to use force to enforce its laws.

    Bored Lawyer (998177)

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