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Major SMACSS investigation targets 72 Philadelphia police officers

Officers placed on administrative duty over investigation into racist and offensive Facebook posts

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The Plain View Project

Philadelphia’s police commissioner is making it clear to officers that what you say in your personal Facebook posts can and will be used against you. Commissioner Richard Ross says he expects some of the 72 officers put on administrative duty in what is amounting to a giant SMACSS (Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome) investigation will be fired. The offending Facebook posts involving officers from Philly and other departments around the country were gathered and published online by the Plain View Project.

(Much credit to Mike Zaccheo for dubbing this a MCISMACSS.)

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.”

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Christie Ileto, WPVI-TV:

Ross says discipline will happen in stages, dealing with the most severe posts first.

“We will not be shy about leading out the appropriate discipline, which could range for day off, to termination–which is probably going to happen for some of these officers,” said the commissioner.

The FOP called it “premature” and “irresponsible” to talk about “firing without a complete in investigation.”

Earlier this month, Ross said the department is “cognizant of the First Amendment implications.” However, he said it appears some comments are not protected by the First Amendment. Ross says an independent law firm continues to assist in the investigation.

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Statement from John McNesby, FOP Lodge #5 president:

It’s premature and irresponsible for the Commissioner to tell the public that police officers will be fired without a complete investigation into officers’ social media use,” said FOP Lodge#5 President John McNesby. “Our officers are entitled to due process just like any other citizen. FOP attorneys and leadership have been working around-the-clock protecting our members rights under the contract and free-speech. We will support and represent those officers during this overly-broad social-media investigation. Far too many officers have been taken off the street during a time of increased violence in our city. Also, it’s important for the public to understand that the vast majority of our officers serve the residents of Philadelphia with integrity and professionalism.

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