What to Know
- Dozens of Philadelphia officers were placed on leave amid an investigation into racist Facebook posts.
- A local law firm was hired by the City to investigate the social media posts of more than 300 officers.
- The social media posts in question contain racist and violent language toward various groups.
Seven Philadelphia police officers named in a report that linked offensive and racist social media posts to cops in departments across the country have left the department in the last two weeks.
Officers Jesus Cruz, Anthony Acquaviva, Michael Melvin, Thomas Young, Joseph Fox, Edward McCammit and Robert Bannan left the police force in July, the police department said.
Cruz, who resigned on July 18, posted anti-Muslim memes and promoted police brutality at least 36 times on his social media account.
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On Aug. 16, 2006, he wrote: "All I want from the government is to defend this country from Islam ... I will protect my family with an AR15," according to the Plain View Project, which made its national database of offensive posts public earlier this summer.
Melvin, who resigned on July 22, shared a racist,homophobic and anti-Muslim meme featuring former First Lady Michelle Obama. Meanwhile, Fox, who quit the police force on the same day as Melvin, repeatedly shared memes featuring the Confederate flag.
Last month, the Philadelphia Police Department suspended 13 officers with an intent to fire them after a nonprofit group published the results of a two-year review of personal Facebook posts or comments from officers in Philadelphia and seven other U.S. police departments.
Previously, 72 officers were placed on administrative leave after their posts were made public. Nearly all will face some kind of disciplinary action.
The researchers found officers from Arizona to Florida bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racist stereotypes, identifying with right-wing militia groups and glorifying police brutality. All the posts were public.
The police officers' union didn't comment on the resignations, but previously said it was disappointed the officers "will be terminated without due process."
The 3,000 posts in question were uncovered by a team of researchers who spent nearly two years looking at the personal Facebook accounts of police officers from Arizona to Florida. They found officers bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racist stereotypes, identifying with right-wing militia groups and glorifying police brutality.
Among the most egregious social media posts shared by Philadelphia police officers was a meme that read "Death to Islam." Others referred to black people as "thugs" and shared homophobic memes that encouraged violence, Ross said.
A sergeant in Philadelphia commented that a young suspect should be "taken out back and put down like the rabid animal he is."
All the posts were public and some dated back to 2010. None of the 72 Philadelphia officers on leave denied the posts, according to Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross.
"When this issue first came to light, many of the posts were deeply disturbing," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said earlier this month. "We have a duty to represent ourselves and our city ... We will not allow this incident to break down the progress we have made and we pledge to do better" moving forward.
The Philadelphia Law Department, Philadelphia law firm Ballard Spahr and the Internal Affairs Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department worked in tandem over the past month to investigate the Facebook posts and determine whether any were protected by the First Amendment, Ross said.
The Internal Affairs investigation identified and prioritized officers who advocated violence or death against classes of protected people, such as religious and racial minorities.
In addition to that investigation, every member of the Philadelphia police department will be required to watch a training video outlining social media and off-duty policies in regards to race, ethnicity, code and conduct.
"It is so sad that ... a country that is supposed to be the greatest country in the world, that we have such hatred that doesn’t seem to end," Ross said.
The police department will also develop a mechanism to inspect officers' social media posts and identify potential problems, work with outside groups dealing with anti-bias and anti-racism training and consult with the Anti-Defamation League.