Criminal Justice

13 cops in this state will be fired because of offensive Facebook posts

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Thirteen Philadelphia police officers will be fired for racist, violent and offensive Facebook posts uncovered because of the efforts of a local lawyer.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross announced the disciplinary action Thursday, report the Philadelphia Inquirer, ABC News, Injustice Watch and BuzzFeed News. Ross told reporters that the department’s analysis “included a balance of the officer’s constitutional rights and the integrity of the police department.”

The Facebook posts were assembled in a database by the Plain View Project, a group founded by lawyer Emily Baker-White that examined offensive Facebook posts from eight police departments across the country.

Ross said 13 officers will be fired and four will be suspended for 30 days. The stories differ on how many will face less harsh discipline; BuzzFeed News and Injustice Watch say the number, for now, is between 52 to 55. An investigation into about 260 other officers who wrote less offensive posts is ongoing.

Ross said the officers facing the harshest discipline posted anti-Islamic statements such as “death to Islam,” used racial slurs, encouraged police brutality, shared anti-gay memes, and posted memes suggesting violence to transgender people. Their posts revealed that the officers “have little or no regard for their positions as police officers,” Ross said.

“I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts, many of which, in my view, violate the basic tenets of human decency,” Ross said at a press conference.

The police department worked with the law firm Ballard Spahr to evaluate the posts to determine whether they consisted of speech protected under the First Amendment and whether they violated department policies.

The Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement that it is “disappointed that our officers will be terminated without due process.” The firings can be contested in an arbitration process, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in an op-ed that called for reforming the system.

Related article:

ABA Journal: “Public Employees, Private Speech: 1st Amendment doesn’t always protect government workers”

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