Philadelphia police announce firings, suspensions following social media investigation

More than one dozen Philadelphia police officers will be fired after an investigation into posts they allegedly made on social media. 

Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Mayor Jim Kenney made the announcement at a press conference Thursday afternoon. 

"Thirteen of these officers will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss," Commissioner Ross said.

Commissioner Ross says along with the 13 firings, four officers will be suspended for 30 days, while 52 will be suspended for up to five days or reprimanded.

“I am very troubled and I understand the dismay that the public would have because we have it as well," Ross said during the press conference. 

Back in June, a total of 72 Philadelphia officers were taken off the streets after a national investigation by the database group Plain View Project. Their report found more than 300 posts by former and current Philadelphia officers that are at times racist and appear to incite violence. Ross says just three of those 72 who were taken off the street will not be disciplined. 

The department began an internal investigation and asked an outside law firm to assist them. Departments in five states also launched investigations after posts by their officers were uncovered by the Plain View Project.

Some of the posts allegedly included officers bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racist stereotypes, identifying with right-wing militia groups and, especially, glorifying police brutality. All the posts were public.

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Among the posts by members of the Philadelphia police department, a sergeant is accused of commenting that a young suspect should be "taken out back and put down like the rabid animal he is."

"Internal affairs identified and prioritized those posts which clearly advocated violence or death against any protected class such as ethnicity, national origin, sex, religion, and race," Ross explained.

Once those posts were identified investigators worked with a contracted law firm and reviewed each post to determine if the posts were constitutionally protected. 

The department says the investigation was only one step towards addressing such conduct and therefore will be implementing proactive measures like anti-bias training.

"I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts, many of which, in my view, violate the basic tenants of human decency," Commissioner Ross said. "These posts undoubtedly have a profound impact on our police-community relations in this city." 

Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police has since responded to the discipline.

“We’re aware of the dismissals and disappointed that our officers will be terminated without due-process. We are currently meeting with each officer to prepare an appropriate response to protect our members’ rights under the contract,” said FOP Lodge #5 President, John McNesby. “FOP Lodge #5 and our members condemn racist and hateful speech in any form. The overwhelming majority of our members serve this city with integrity and professionalism.”