13 Philly officers fired over offensive Facebook posts
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.”
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross holds a press conference on June 17.