The Philadelphia Police Department pulled 72 officers off regular duties as authorities investigate inflammatory social media posts revealed in a database that found thousands of offensive postings by current and former officers, NPR reports. It was the largest removal of officers from the street in recent memory. “We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. It is the latest fallout since the advocacy group The Plain View Project this month released thousands of Facebook posts and comments by current and former police officers that range from racist memes, to celebrations of violence and messages containing Islamophobic themes. Police internal affairs officials in Phoenix, St. Louis and Dallas are probing whether the distasteful and sometimes violent material should warrant disciplinary action or terminations.
Ross said that at least “several dozen” of the 72 officers now on desk duty will be disciplined and others will be fired. Civil rights lawyer David Rudovsky called the decision to place 72 officers on desk duty “significant,” saying the social media posts appear to show conduct that is inconsistent with the department’s promise of fair and equal treatment for all residents. “More important will be the future decisions regarding sanctions or other measures to deal with this widespread problem in the police department,” he said. Criminal defense lawyer Paul Hetznecker cited “the underlining problems of implicit bias and explicit bias that these posts reflect that have existed for a long, long time.” The project tracking officers’ use of social media flagged offensive material posted by 2,900 current officers and hundreds of former police officers across eight police departments.