Philadelphia Police Will Comb Through Officers Social Media Posts

By Alex Lloyd Gross

There have been reports across the country of police making inappropriate comments on social media networks.  Some have blatantly used disparaging remarks to describe minorities.  Not just about a particular  criminal referring them as a scum or POS. That should be fine, especially when talking about someone  who committed a violent atrocity.  People are upset about bringing the race or religion of someone into the conversation.

Opinions are expressed daily on just about every subject. Politics, for example  is a touchy subject.  An officer posting “I support President Trump” is considered free speech. So is a comment “I cannot believe how stupid President Trump is”. It’s when they start talking about harming immigrants or  wishing harm to others that is a line  considered crossed. After all, a stereo salesman is not held to the same standard of a cop.

in response to this, Police Commissioner Richard Ross issued this statement:

After consulting with the City’s Law Department, we have asked an outside law firm to assist with investigating each of these cases individually before we make final decisions about disciplinary action. The Law Department is instructing the law firm to conduct its review expeditiously and to review the most egregious posts first.

First, we must verify independently that the officers identified in the report actually made the comments attributed to them, many of which I find deeply disturbing and upsetting. But to be clear, those officers that we have identified that appear to have engaged in explicit bias against any protected class of individual or who advocated any form of violence, will be immediately removed from street duty during the course of these investigations.

Second, it is important to keep in mind that these comments, many of which appear to have been made off duty, are of varying levels of concern to the Police Department. We will be approaching this on a case-by-case basis.

We are certainly cognizant of the First Amendment implications here. But at the same time, it appears that certain comments were not constitutionally protected by the First Amendment. When a police officer’s expression of his or her opinions erodes the Police Department’s ability to do its job and maintain the public’s trust, the department is permitted to act, including disciplining officers when the circumstances allow for it.

Police officers know they are held to a higher standard, and cannot engage in careless or outright reprehensible conduct, regardless whether they are on or off duty.

This is particularly the case in a diverse and welcoming City like ours where we must expect that when police officers interact with the public, investigate crimes, and make arrests, they are doing so without regard to an individual’s race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation. When this central ability to police our streets impartially is called into question, the Police Department is permitted to act and will act.

I must emphasize that those disturbing comments do not — in any way — reflect the values and beliefs of the thousands of honorable officers who make up this Department.

I hope you can appreciate that this is not an easy task. We will be deliberate in our steps and will ultimately do what is in the best interest of the City and its residents.

We recognize that this investigation is only one step towards addressing this unacceptable behavior and conduct. Therefore, we are implementing the following proactive measures:

Anti-Racist/Anti-Bias Training for all police personnel;

  • Additional roll call training on the social media, off-duty and race and discrimination policies; and
  • Employing, in the near future, an internal auditing process to monitor social media posts by police person .                                                                                                                       It must be noted that just because an officer Tweets or posts something derogatory , does not mean that they act that way on duty. They may put their personal feelings aside and take a proactive approach to protecting the rights of  minorities.