A recent investigative report has police departments across the country taking a closer look at their officers’ social media. The Plain View Project (PVP) has been keeping a database of public posts by police officers that contain racist or violent content. Their recently published findings have cities investigating their officers’ behavior on and off the web.
The project was initiated by a research fellow in Philadelphia’s Federal Community Defender Office in 2017. While investigating accusations of police brutality, she came across memes and posts on Facebook advocating for violence against potential offenders. One meme in particular featured a fierce-looking police dog alongside a caption about tearing into someone running from the police. Unnerved by this discovery, the fellow and her colleagues undertook a project to see how much more content was out there.
The team assembled employee lists from eight cities of varying size and geography, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Louis, Dallas, Denison, TX, Twin Falls, ID, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Out of the list of 14,000 current and former officers, they were able to identify 3,500 public Facebook profiles that matched employee records. Once they verified that they were looking at the right profile, using the names, photos, and self-identifying posts on the account, they set to work compiling their public posts into the database.
The database revealed some alarming trends in the content of the posts. Many of them included language advocating violence, such as tasering or shooting suspects, particularly against minorities. Some of the posts referred to protesters or people of color as animalistic or less than human. Often these posts would have comments underneath, either from civilians or from fellow officers, that escalated the violent and racist rhetoric. The findings were published in an investigative report by Injustice Watch and BuzzFeed News.
As stories of police brutality continue to dominate the news, the PVP is shedding light on a serious cultural divide between some police officers and the communities they serve. The cities of Philadelphia, Phoenix, and St. Louis have all released statements saying that investigations into these posts are underway. In Philadelphia, there are currently seven officers being investigated due to their social media activity.
Police officers have a responsibility to protect and serve all members of their community. When they let bias interfere with their jobs, the consequences can be devastating, or even deadly. Targets of racial profiling may be unlawfully searched, arrested, or injured while dealing with police. The results of the PVP show that a cultural shift is a key element in a restoration of community trust in law enforcement and a reduction in police brutality.
If you have been the victim of police brutality or racial profiling, call the Philadelphia police brutality lawyers at Williams Cedar. Our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers will thoroughly review the facts of your case and pursue an aggressive legal strategy to ensure that justice is served and that your rights are protected. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, we represent victims of injustice throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us today at 215-557-0099 or contact us online for a free consultation with a Philadelphia civil rights lawyer.