13 Philly of­fi­cers fired over of­fen­sive Face­book posts

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION/WORLD - By Chris Palmer

PHILADELPH­IA — Philadelph­ia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross an­nounced Thurs­day that 13 of­fi­cers would be fired for mak­ing racist or of­fen­sive Face­book posts, an un­prece­dented wave of ter­mi­na­tions re­sult­ing from a scan­dal that has at­tracted na­tional at­ten­tion.

Speaking along­side Mayor Jim Kenney at a news con­fer­ence at Po­lice Head­quar­ters, Ross said that in ad­di­tion to the fir­ings — the largest num­ber of of­fi­cers dis­missed at one time in re­cent city his­tory — an­other 56 cops would face dis­ci­plinary out­comes rang­ing from a rep­ri­mand to a 30day un­paid sus­pen­sion.

“I con­tinue to be very an­gered and dis­ap­pointed by these posts, many of which, in my view, vi­o­late the ba­sic tenets of hu­man de­cency,” Ross said, adding that the depart­ment must “move past this ridicu­lous hate that just con­sumes this coun­try and has done so for cen­turies.”

The dis­ci­plinary out­comes rep­re­sented the most sig­nif­i­cant re­sponse yet to last month’s pub­li­ca­tion of the Plain View Project, a data­base com­piled by ad­vo­cates that cat­a­logs Face­book posts al­legedly made by of­fi­cers in Philadelph­ia and seven other ju­ris­dic­tions across the coun­try.

Still, some de­tails of the city’s re­sponse re­mained un­clear.

Ross, flanked by his five deputy com­mis­sion­ers, did not iden­tify any of the cops to be fired, say­ing that the pa­per­work had not yet been com­pleted and that “a cou­ple” of the af­fected of­fi­cers were on va­ca­tion. The high­est rank among those to be fired is sergeant, Ross said.

He also did not iden­tify spe­cific posts that may have led to ter­mi­na­tion, but did say that of­fi­cers los­ing their jobs had posted ma­te­rial con­don­ing vi­o­lence, en­cour­ag­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity, or pro­mot­ing memes or other con­tent that was anti-Is­lamic, ho­mo­pho­bic, or racist.

As one ex­am­ple, Ross cited the words “Death to Is­lam.” That phrase ap­peared in a post al­legedly made by Sgt. Joseph Przepi­orka. It was not known Thurs­day whether Przepi­orka was among the 13 of­fi­cers to be fired. The Plain View Project said Przepi­orka made 91 ques­tion­able posts, 56 of which were cat­e­go­rized as show­ing bias.

The po­lice union — which al­ready had ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to fir­ing of­fi­cers over the posts — said it was pre­par­ing “an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to pro­tect our mem­bers’ rights.”

John McNesby, pres­i­dent of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5, said in a state­ment: “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.”

Kenney said at the news con­fer­ence that he found many of the posts “deeply dis­turb­ing,” but he de­fended Ross’ lead­er­ship, calling the dis­ci­plinary mea­sures “a pos­i­tive step.”

“Build­ing trust in the com­mu­ni­ties we serve will al­ways be our top pri­or­ity,” Kenney said. “We will not al­low this ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent to break down the progress we’ve made, and we pledge to do bet­ter mov­ing for­ward.”

TOM GRALISH/THE PHILADELPH­IA IN­QUIRER FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Philadelph­ia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross holds a press con­fer­ence on June 17.

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