Police officers across five states exposed making thousands of anti-Muslim posts online

28th Jun 2019
Police officers across five states exposed making thousands of anti-Muslim posts online

A few of the thousands of anti-Muslim Facebook posts made by current and former police officers serving across the US.(Screengrabs: The Plain View Project)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Police officers across five states in the US are being investigated for posting anti-Muslim, racist and violent statements on Facebook, according to an exposé by a Philadelphia-based research group.

For two years researchers from The Plain View Project studied thousands of online posts from eight police jurisdictions from Arizona to Florida. The project findings exposed a disturbing online subculture that ‘threatens to undermine public confidence in law enforcement.’

A team of attorneys in Philadelphia pored through the Facebook accounts of more than 2,800 current officers and nearly 700 former officers.

They flagged posts by 556 current officers (about one in five of those studied) and 299 former officers. The database includes more than 5,000 posts, as well as comments on the posts.
The research released last month showed police officers publicly bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racism, glorifying police brutality as well as identifying with far-right militia groups.

One sergeant posted a meme that said, ‘Death to Islam.’ In St Louis, Missouri, a police officer shared a meme asserting that ‘if the Confederate flag is racist, then so is Black History Month.’

‘It’s a good day for a choke hold,’ wrote an officer in Phoenix. A sergeant in Philadelphia said that a young suspect should be ‘taken out back and put down like the rabid animal he is.’
Emily Baker-White, founder of Plain View Project, told The Washington Post, “There are enough of these posts out there that this doesn’t seem like a ‘bad apples’ problem, it seems like a culture problem.”

Adding, “My biggest fear is that there are people who are seeing these posts online, who are interacting with these officers, who think, ‘The police might not be there for me because I pray differently than they do, or I look differently, or I have different immigration status.’”

Baker-White, a former federal public defender in Philadelphia, got the idea for Plain View after she was assigned to a police brutality case and found an inflammatory social media post by one of the officers involved. “That made me ask the question, how prevalent is this stuff? How much of this stuff is out there?”she said.

St Louis began an internal affairs probe and announced that officers will undergo sensitivity training after researchers flagged 166 posts by active-duty police. The city prosecutor’s office said it has launched a separate review on the posts described by Mayor Lyda Krewson as “disturbing and unacceptable”.

The Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MO) demanded that city police undergo sensitivity training. “We want to ensure that this investigation is done without bias in order to rebuild trust between the police department and our community,” said CAIR-MO Executive Director, Faizan Syed.

“We are calling on the mayor and other city officials to immediately set up a meeting with community leaders to discuss the ongoing controversy. Unless our voices are heard, the proposed ‘sensitivity training’ is not nearly enough to rebuild trust.”

Officer Derek Hartman, a spokesman for the police department in York, Pennsylvania, confirmed they are investigating their officers and will “take disciplinary action if any is warranted.” York’s social media policy prohibits online conduct that ‘negatively impacts’ the police department and residents.

The database includes a 2014 Facebook post purportedly by Galen Detweiler, a York officer who worked for Baltimore police at the time. “Bucket list: Punch a guy so hard he poops himself,” the post said. The comment had a checkmark next to it.
Three years later, Detweiler was caught on video repeatedly punching a female suspect in the face during a struggle outside a York bar.

The woman’s attorney, Leticia Chavez-Freed, said she plans to use his post as an exhibit in a federal lawsuit alleging he used excessive force. The Lake County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office it is reviewing posts by 16 deputies.

 

 

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