Analysis of police officers' Facebook accounts finds hundreds of violent, racist posts

Analysis of police officers' Facebook accounts finds hundreds of violent, racist posts

An analysis of thousands of police officers’ Facebook accounts published by BuzzFeed News and Injustice Watch on Monday found hundreds of violent and racist posts.

The Plain View Project, launched by Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White, examined the accounts of about 2,900 officers from eight departments across the country and an additional 600 retired officers from those same departments, compiling those with troubling content.

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BuzzFeed and Injustice Watch analyzed the posts from the project, and pulled out several cases of bigoted, racist and violent content.

Of the pages of officers whom the Plain View researchers could positively identify, about one in five of the current officers, and two out of five of the retired officers, reportedly made public posts or comments with offensive content.

One Philadelphia police officer posted “should have shot him” along with surveillance video of an armed, would-be robber backed out of a liquor store after the clerk pulled a gun on him.

Another officer responded “I would of [sic] pulled the trigger.”

“Just another savage that needs to be exterminated,” wrote Booker Smith Jr., a Dallas police sergeant, about a homicide at a Dollar General store.

Reuben Carver III, a Phoenix officer, proclaimed in a stand-alone post, “Its a good day for a choke hold.”

St. Louis officer Thomas Mabrey shared a false news report that distorted an incident in which a female police officer was shot responding to a call from a Moroccan man in Lebanon, Ohio. “F these muslem turd goat humpers,” he wrote, one of numerous anti-Muslim posts.

The researchers also collected data from current and former officers in York, Pa.; Twin Falls, Idaho; Denison, Texas and Lake County Florida.

Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury told The Hill that one of the individuals attributed to them in the database has never worked for the department and declined to comment on the posts of officers who do.

“First, John Wellard is not, nor do we have any record of him ever being, a Twin Falls Police Officer. Per our longest tenured officer, Captain Matthew Hicks, he has never heard of Mr. Wellard,” Kingsbury said.

“Regarding the other three individuals that are included on this report, those names all do match names of current TFPD police officers. I do not have any further comment.”

Philadelphia Police Department told The Hill they are aware of the report and have opened an investigation into the posts. A spokesperson for the Saint Louis Police Department told The Hill that the information “has been forwarded to our Internal Affairs Division,” to be “reviewed for any violations of our policies.”

The remaining departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Experts in race and criminal justice expressed concern over the alarming number of problematic posts.

“This blows up the myth of bad apples, by the sheer number of images and numbers of individuals who are implicated,” Nikki Jones, an associate professor of African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told BuzzFeed and Injustice Watch.

David Kennedy, a criminology professor at John Jay College, said he considered the results “dire.”

"This is the kind of behavior that confirms the worst suspicions on the part of communities about the police," Kennedy said, adding that it “fuels and cements” the convictions of people in distressed communities have that the “police are not to be trusted.”

Peter Moskos, a sociologist and former Baltimore police officer, pushed back on those concerns, saying that such comments may just be expressions of officers who recognize the dangers of the profession.

“I think a lot of that language serves a purpose,” Moskos said. It implies, “We’re all in this together.”

— Updated at 3:31 p.m.