Philadelphia Police Department takes 72 officers off street amid probe into controversial Facebook posts

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Police Commissioner Richard Ross holds a press conference at the Police Administration Building on June 17, 2019. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )

By Chris Palmer, the Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Police Department has taken 72 officers off street duty as it continues to investigate scores of racist or offensive Facebook posts allegedly made by city cops — the largest number of officers placed on desk duty at one time in recent history, Commissioner Richard Ross said Wednesday.

During a news conference at Police Headquarters nearly three weeks after advocates published a database cataloging the posts, Ross said that although no officers had yet been disciplined, he expected dozens to face internal consequences and at least several to be fired. He did not identify any by name.

“We are equally disgusted by many of the posts that you saw, and that in many cases the rest of the nation saw,” Ross said. He later said the alleged behavior “defies logic” and “makes me sick,” adding: “We are in a position to know better.”

Ross’ remarks updated a scandal that has enveloped his department, with 330 of its 6,500 officers included on a database known as the Plain View Project. Organizers of the database said they had cataloged thousands of dehumanizing or intolerant posts or comments made by cops in eight jurisdictions, including Philadelphia.

The commissioner’s comments also came during a week in which he and other top city officials have been responding to an unusually violent Father’s Day weekend in the city, in which 28 people were shot — five fatally — in 19 incidents Saturday and Sunday.

Ross said Wednesday that he did not believe the benching of 72 officers would significantly impact staffing as the department seeks to respond to, and try to prevent, gun violence this summer. The cops placed on desk duty, Ross said, were spread across the department in a way that did not leave any division shorthanded. The officers will continue to be paid.

Ross acknowledged that he would have preferred to have more officers on patrol.

“Of all the things we have to contend with in this police department, of all the issues that we have to deal with, this is one we certainly could have done without,” Ross said.

 

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