Watchdog group exposes racist, sexist social posts from hundreds of Philly cops

Hundreds of Philadelphia Police Officers, including multiple high-ranking members, are in hot water after a database revealed scores of violent, racist, and sexist social media posts.

The In Plain View Project, a database of public Facebook posts and comments made by current and former police officers, identified 1,073 of the roughly 6,600 Philly Police officers on Facebook, and found that 328 had posted troubling content. The list includes at least 15 high-ranking members of the force including an inspector, six captains, and nine lieutenants, as well as 30 female law enforcement personnel.

Injustice Watch, the watchdog group that carried out the project, identified Philadelphia Officer Christian Fenico, who appears on Facebook under the name Chris Joseph, posted “should have shot him” on a post of surveillance video footage showing an armed, would-be robber fleeing from a liquor store after the clerk pulled a gun on him in September 2013.

The Chicago-based nonprofit journalism organization found that Fenico had been accused of excessive and unprovoked force on two separate occasions.

In one instance, The City of Brotherly Love paid $110,000 to settle a case brought by a man who claimed that Fenico broke his nose, before choking him out even after his partner tried to stop the beating.

In a post about refugees, Fenico allegedly wrote, “Let them starve to death. I hate every last one of them.”

In another Philly-based instance, Officer Robert Oakes appeared to belittle domestic abuse, writing, “Oh baby, oh baby, PLEAsE DONT!!!!! stop!!!!! resisting!!!!!” and “no means yes!!!!! They just don’t know it….”

The city paid $42,500 to settle two separate assault claims made against Oakes.

According to the Philadelphia Police Department’s Social Media and Networking standards, “employees are prohibited from using ethnic slurs, profanity, personal insults; material that is harassing, defamatory, fraudulent, or discriminatory, or other content or communications that would not be acceptable in a City workplace under City or agency policy or practice.”

Off-duty Philly PD personnel are essentially on their own when it comes to their personal social media behavior, and do not represent the City or the Department.

“Employees who are off-duty, and using privately-owned property to engage in the personal use of social media, do not represent the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, or any official position maintained by either entity. Under such conditions, employees represent only themselves and their personal interests.”

“We have reviewed the social media transcriptions you provided, and find many of them to be not only incongruent with our standards and policies, but also troubling on a human level,” Commissioner Richard Ross said of Injustice Watch’s findings.

The In Plain View Project started in the summer of 2016, when a team of attorneys in Philadelphia led by lawyer Emily Baker-White learned that numerous local police officers had posted content on Facebook that appeared to endorse violence, racism and bigotry.  

The Project compiled and examined the accounts of about 2,900 active police officers and an additional 600 retired officers from York, Pennsylvania; Phoenix; St. Louis; Dallas; Twin Falls, Idaho; Denison, Texas; and Lake County, Florida.

“We need to make sure police officers have everyone’s back on the street and everyone knows that they can call police and don’t have to be afraid police may harbor some ill will towards them,” Baker-White told ABC 6.