By Marina Pitofsky
The Philadelphia Police Department has assigned 72 officers to desk duties as part of an investigation into offensive social media posts, NPR reported.
“We are equally as disgusted by many of the posts that you saw and in many cases, the rest of the nation saw,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, according to the network.
Ross reportedly confirmed that this is the largest removal of the city’s police officers from their normal duties over a single investigation.
“Several dozen” officers will be disciplined, and others will be fired, Ross said, according to NPR, which added that the posts implicate more than 300 officers in the city.
“We’ve talked about from the outset how disturbing, how disappointing and upsetting these posts are,” Ross reportedly told reporters at the police department’s headquarters. “They will undeniably impact police-community relations.”
The social media posts were first exposed by The Plain View Project, which compiled a database of posts by current and former police officers. The organization found racist, anti-Muslim and violent memes and posts in police departments across the country.
The department has hired a law firm to examine whether the posts are protected under the First Amendment, NPR noted. Anti-bias and anti-racist training will also be implemented for officers, it added.
Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Paul Hetznecker said the posts are a symbol of long-term problems in the city.
“We’re all aware of it,” Hetznecker told NPR. “There’s not anyone who has been connected to the criminal justice system in Philadelphia who isn’t aware of the underlining problems of implicit bias and explicit bias that these posts reflect that have existed for a long, long time, for decades.”
The database was first reported by BuzzFeed News and Injustice Watch.