"CONGRATULATIONS GEORGE ZIMMERMAN!!! Thank you for cleaning up our community one thug at a time," wrote Phoenix police officer Joshua Ankert on July 14, 2013, the day after Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Salary data available on the city's open data portal shows Ankert made $72,425 for his work with the Phoenix Police Department last year.
Ankert's post is one of hundreds of shocking social media posts made by Phoenix police officers dug up by the Plain View Project, a database launched over the weekend and created by a team of Philadelphia attorneys in an effort to catalog bigotry and racism among police officers nationwide.
The database includes 282 posts from current and former Phoenix police officers. Taken together, the posts reveal a chilling culture of intolerance and prejudice among Phoenix police officers, who frequently referred to black people as "thugs," called for violence against protesters, denounced Muslims as rapists, and joked about refusing to help citizens who criticized the police.
In July 2016, Phoenix police officer Mike Pietro, who also made $72,425 last year per city records, shared a photo of a 911 dispatcher captioned: "I'm sorry sir, but I see here that on July 9th, you posted, and I quote, 'Fuck the police' on your social media. We will not be able to assist you during your emergency. Best of luck to you sir."
Police Sergeant Gary Gombar commented on one video with a photo of a bloodied truck with a mangled corpse stuck to the front captioned, "Just drove through Ferguson. Didn't see any problems."
Another Phoenix cop, Bryce Koppelman, who made the same salary as Ankert and Pietro last year, posted a photo of the cartoon character Elmer Fudd shooting Barack Obama in the face.
In response to questions from Phoenix New Times and other media outlets, Phoenix police Sergeant Vincent Lewis said in a statement on Monday evening that the department is investigating the database for possible policy violations.
"Many have asked for a response to an online database concerning social media posts from police officers in various cities, including Phoenix," Lewis said. "One such name was brought to our attention earlier in the year when the publication was researching their article. This particular inquiry was reviewed by our Professional Standards Bureau and did not rise to the level of misconduct on the part of the employee. The department is aware of the remaining report now available to us online and will be looking into other potential misconduct by current employees."
While the database itself is comprehensive and lists the current employment status of each officer, New Times cross-checked the data with the city salary data to confirm the employment status of individual officers, and located many of the posts on the officer's own Facebook pages. The Plain View Project used department rosters to check for officers' Facebook profiles and and employment status. Unless otherwise noted, all of the officers mentioned in this article are listed as currently employed in the Plain View Project's database.
Some police officers frequently shared questionable posts.
Phoenix police officer David Pallas showed a total intolerance towards Muslims in his Facebook posts. In one, shared on June 12, 2016, a photo of Michelle Obama captioned, "Every day I wake up in a house that was built by slaves," was juxtaposed with another photo captioned, "Then get out!! And take your gay muslim husband with you."
Pallas also shared a photo of a goat captioned: "I don't want to grow up to be abused as a Muslim sex slave. Please ban Islam" and a photo of the Quran captioned, "How about banning this, it offends me!!"
Reuben Carver III, the only Phoenix police officer who was mentioned in national stories about the database by BuzzFeed and The New York Times, wrote on Facebook in 2011, "It's a good day for a chokehold."
Carver is the employee who Lewis said was not disciplined for his posts.
Carver continued to share posts that year and in 2012 showing a fondness for violence. He shared one photo of a man punching another man on Facebook captioned, "Punch hippies in their dumb monkey faces" and another photo of a cop pepper-spraying a sitting crowd captioned, "Don't mind me, just watering my hippies."
"Statistics show that criminals commit less crime after they've been shot," read one meme shared by Clinton Swick, apparently encouraging violence against people who have committed a crime.
Swick again called for violence with a post of a road sign with the words, "Ferguson protestors ahead, speed up, aim well," on August 12, 2015.
Swick's posts also betrayed an irrationally narrow view of Muslims. In May 2015, he shared a photo of a woman wearing a T-shirt that read, "Stop Muslims Now," next to the words: "I'm not willing to let Muslims rape and kill me just to prove how tolerant I am." In August, he shared a photo of possible refugees captioned, "Stop Obama's colonization plan."
Like Pietro, another current Phoenix cop, Christina Begay, joked about refusing to respond to calls for service from people who had ever criticized the police.
Writing under the Facebook pseudonym Krys NavaJew, Begay shared a photo of two police officers laughing captioned, "They said, 'fuck the police,' so I said, 'Fuck your 911 call, I'll get to your dying home boy when I finish my coffee.'"
"For real!" Begay wrote when she shared the post. "Wish we could!"
Begay also shared a racist joke about Asian people: "If your phone gets wet, try putting it in dry rice. At night, the rice will attract Asians who will fix your electronics for you."
"Don't like cops?" read a meme shared by Patrick Tortorici, a police lieutenant who made $124,696 last year. "Call a crackhead."
Many Phoenix cops shared posts and comments celebrating violence against protesters.
On October 11, 2017, current police officer James Wolfenden shared a link about the Black Lives Matter movement claiming they are "funded by HAMAS!"
Former officer Steven Perrotta shared a video in December 2014 of a protester accused of punching two cops. Perrotta wrote, "Here is another piece of crap. Hang him by his balls."
Update: At 9:35 p.m. on Monday, June 3, Phoenix police shared a statement from Chief Jeri Williams stating: "I became aware of the entire website today which alleges misconduct by current and former Phoenix Police officers. The language and terminology used in the posts are embarrassing and disturbing."
"They completely contradict how the Phoenix Police Department should speak about the members of our community or others. Nor are these posts in keeping with our mission and values as city of Phoenix employees," said Williams. "I have high expectations for the men and women who work with me. When potential misconduct is brought to my attention, it is immediately addressed. I have asked our Professional Standards Bureau to look further into this matter."
This is a breaking story and this post may be updated.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.