72 Philadelphia Officers Benched After Offensive Social Media Posts

The Philadelphia police commissioner pulled 72 officers from the streets and the top prosecutor in St. Louis said she would no longer accept cases from 22 officers as outrage grew this week over a catalog of bigoted social media posts by members of several American police departments.

The benching of the Philadelphia officers, announced Wednesday by Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., comes as his department and others struggle to confront the disturbing trove of social media posts released this month by the Plain View Project, a new database of officers’ social media activity.

The posts, compiled from accounts believed to belong to current or former officers in eight departments, included racist and Islamophobic material, as well as celebrations of officers who use excessive force. “It’s a good day for a chokehold,” one officer wrote.

In Philadelphia, Commissioner Ross said 72 officers had been assigned administrative duties while facing investigation for their posts. He said some of them were likely to be fired, and many could be disciplined. Commissioner Ross described the posts as disturbing, and said they tarnished his department’s reputation.

“They will undeniably impact police-community relations,” Commissioner Ross said. “We are not naïve to that fact, nor are we dismissive of it.”

In St. Louis, the elected prosecutor, Kimberly Gardner, said she had placed 22 officers on a so-called “exclusion list” this week because of the posts. Ms. Gardner said those officers would not be allowed to present cases to her office.

She said the posts called into question an officer’s “ability to perform his or her duties in an unbiased manner.”

“Police integrity is at the core of the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Ms. Gardner said in a statement. “When a police officer’s integrity is compromised in this manner, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our overall ability to pursue justice.”

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