By Frederick H. Lowe
Philadelphia has assigned 72 police officers to desk duty, and St. Louis’ top prosecutor will not accept testimony from 59 of the city’s police officers.
Both departments took action because of racist, sexist and homophobic comments made by cops who posted them on Facebook, according to Plain View Project, a group of Philadelphia-based lawyers who monitor the website. Lawyer Emily Baker-White founded Plain View Project. org in 2017.
Plain View has compiled a database of racist, sexist and homophobic comments made by active and retired police officers across the country. Plain View cross-referenced police rosters and located police officers’ Facebook profiles, which Baker-White verified.
Philadelphia, Phoenix, and St. Louis have taken steps to discipline the cops for their comments. The database also examined posts made by cops in New York, Pennsylvania, Dallas, St. Louis and Phoenix.
Racist comments by white police officers are common; I learned this from my own personal experience. Pittsburgh police arrested me ( Frederick H. Lowe) in 1972 as a burglary suspect. One of the arresting cops screamed at me several times that he “hated niggers” as he and other cops beat me with their fists and kicked me.
A judge dropped the charge. I had just moved from Seattle to Pittsburgh to take a job at the New Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly newspaper, and I didn’t know my way around the city let alone the neighborhood where the alleged burglary occurred.
In some of the comments posted on Facebook cops called black men “animals.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said he reassigned the cops following protests throughout the city prompted by the’ racist posts. Plain View Project’s database reported that at least 328 cops posted comments celebrating violence against blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and people accused of committing crimes.
“We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and, in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” Commissioner Ross said. Philadelphia employs 6,600 sworn officers.
One of the comments said, “it’s a good day for a chokehold.”
In one chilling photograph, cops escort a black man whose head is heavily bandaged with a bandage covering one eye. Someone writes, “damn, it looks like he fell, he tripped and fell a couple of times.” It is not clear if a cop said this and where he worked.
Kimberly M. Gardner, circuit attorney for St. Louis, said many of the Facebook posts were shocking and beneath the dignity of someone who holds a position of power.
In a letter Tuesday to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, Gardner said seven of the 22 officers are “permanently banned.”
This means her office won’t issue charges based on their investigations, won’t apply for search warrants they seek and won’t consider cases in which they are essential witnesses.
As in Philadelphia, the St. Louis cops posted anti-black and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook..