Jul 20, 2019

13 Philadelphia cops first to be fired for racist, homophobic Facebook posts

Philadelphia community members and activists discuss police officers' racist social media posts on June 20. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

13 Philadelphia police officers will be fired after a 30-day suspension for making racist and homophobic posts on Facebook, many of which advocated violence, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: These officers are among the 3,500+ identified by the nonprofit Plain View Project, which catalogues public Facebook posts by former and active duty officers that appear to endorse racism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, general violence or police brutality. Police departments in at least 5 statesTexas, Missouri, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida — said they began investigating their officers' social media feeds last month.

  • 25 officers in Dallas, Texas faced disciplinary measures earlier this month after an internal review of their Facebook posts, which "included joking about police shooting victims." 4 of the officers were placed on administrative leave.
  • In Missouri, St. Louis Circuit attorney Kimberly Gardner added 22 of the involved officers to a list of those "who are not allowed to bring cases to her office."

Reality check: From 2006-2017, the largest police departments in the U.S. "fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public’s trust," the Post reports. 450 of those officers were later reinstated "after appeals required by union contracts," although in many cases their "underlying misconduct was undisputed."

The backdrop: The Plain View Project was launched in 2017 by attorney Emily Baker-White. The project's database includes posts dating back to 2013 and is funded by private donations, per AP. A joint investigation by BuzzFeed and Injustice Watch, the latter of which served as the project’s fiscal sponsor, brought the database into the national news cycle last month.

Go deeper: Local police increasingly clash with federal law enforcement on body cameras

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Robert O'Brien: "I don't think there's systemic racism" in law enforcement

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he doesn't believe there is "systemic racism" among law enforcement in the U.S., arguing that there's "a few bad apples" that are giving police a bad name.

Why it matters: The mass protests that have swept across the United States are not just a response to the death of George Floyd, but of the dozens of high-profile instances of unarmed black men dying at the hands of police officers over the years.

Atlanta mayor on Trump's riot response: "He speaks and he makes it worse"

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms responded on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday to President Trump's tweets and comments about the mass protests that have swept across the United States, urging him to "just stop talking."

What she's saying: "This is like Charlottesville all over again. He speaks and he makes it worse. There are times when you should just be quiet. And I wish that he would just be quiet."

Black Americans' competing crises

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

For many black Americans, this moment feels like a crisis within a crisis within a crisis.

The big picture: It's not just George Floyd's killing by police. Or the deaths of EMT Breonna Taylor and jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Or the demeaning of birdwatcher Christian Cooper and journalist Omar Jimenez. Or the coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate harm to African Americans. It's that it's all happening at once.