Philly Black leaders: More cops fired over alleged racist, violent Facebook postings

Solomon Jones, center, is flanked by other Black leaders as he speaks about a two-hour closed-door meeting with Mayor Jim Kenney, Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter, and other Kenney administration officials on Monday. (Photo by Michael D'Onofrio for the Philadelphia Tribune)

By Michael D’Onofrio

The Philadelphia Police Department scandal involving hundreds of cops allegedly posting racist and violent Facebook messages has widened and led to more terminations than police department leaders originally said, Black community leaders say.

“More people were involved in that. More people have been fired,” said Solomon Jones, who heads the Rally for Justice Coalition.

Jones made the revelation on Monday after a two-hour closed-door meeting that he and other Black leaders had with Mayor Jim Kenney, Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter and other members of the Kenney administration.

The coalition declined to reveal exactly how many cops have been fired.

Deana Gamble, a spokeswoman for the Kenney administration, declined in an email to comment on what was discussed at the meeting.

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“I can tell you it was a frank and productive exchange,” she said. “The administration is convinced that such honest dialogue is one key to resolving the longstanding issues regarding community/police relations in Philadelphia.”

Spokespeople for the Philadelphia Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5, the union that represents city police officers, also declined to comment.

The meeting came a day before a City Council hearing over the Facebook posting controversy, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in Room 400 at City Hall.

Expected to testify at the hearing are: Coulter; City Managing Director Brian Abernathy; Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission Executive Director Hans Menos; Defender Association of Philadelphia leader Keir Bradford-Grey; and Jones, among others.

At-large Councilman Derrek Green, a Democrat who sponsored the resolution to call for the hearing, said he wanted to hear from department officials about their process for reviewing the thousands of questionable Facebook postings made by officers and how top brass determined terminations and disciplinary actions.

He also wanted to hear about the department’s policies and procedures for social media.

“I hope that [Tuesday’s] hearing will provide an opportunity to get an understanding of the process the police department uses and how they will move forward regarding this situation and regarding the future of the police department,” Green said while standing outside his fifth-floor City Hall office.

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A research group called The Plain View Project and BuzzFeed identified hundreds of Philadelphia police officers who appeared to make thousands of racist, sexist, violent or otherwise offensive posts on Facebook in June.

The report looked at Facebook accounts of about 2,900 active officers and 600 retired officers in eight police departments, including Philadelphia.

The Plain View Project found more than 3,000 racist, sexist, violent or offensive posts allegedly by 328 active-duty Philadelphia police officers.

The police department initially put 72 officers on desk duty while it investigated the posts.

Thirteen officers were targeted for dismissal, though seven retired before they could be fired. Former Commissioner Richard Ross said he did not expect more cops to lose their jobs.

The coalition’s meeting with city leaders was the second since the revelation of the social media postings and ranged from the social media postings to the selection of a new police commissioner.

Joining Jones on Monday was Jay Broadnax, president of the Black Clergy, Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity; Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League and Democratic candidate for sheriff; Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP and a paid member of Kenney’s reelection campaign; and others.

Asked whether the African-American community can have faith in the department to institute reforms following the social media scandal, Jones said, “You trust but verify.”

“You have ongoing conversations with them,” he said. “They still have to earn our trust. We’re the taxpayers. We’re the people that they work for.”

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared. 

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