Phoenix Police Union to 'Scrub' Cops' Online Presence After Racist Facebook Posts

Facebook posts from Phoenix police officers.
Facebook posts from Phoenix police officers.
After dozens of Phoenix police officers were caught posting racist memes and praising violence on Facebook, Phoenix police union president Michael London said the union plans on purchasing a service that will "scrub" police officers' information from the Internet.

"The Facebook investigation is still going on," London said Thursday in a video shared on the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association's Facebook page. "We had our monthly board meeting this past Tuesday, and Franklin Marino has contacted a service that will scrub your name from the internet. It's more of a security and privacy type thing. There's some more information about it on the members-only Facebook."

"We think right now with the numbers we have, it would cost you about $3 a month, but we're still trying to contact the provider of this and see if we can work out a deal," London said.

Last month, hundreds of Facebook posts made by 97 current and former Phoenix police officers were published in a database created by the Plain View Project in an effort to catalog bigotry and racism among police officers nationwide.

The posts show Phoenix police officers 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.

A Phoenix New Times investigation found four of the officers whose posts were included in the database had also been accused of killing people, seven of the officers have been accused of seriously injuring people, and 31 officers had been sued, mostly for excessive force, while eight were included in the Maricopa County Attorney's Brady list, a list of police officers who are so notoriously unreliable and dishonest that prosecutors must disclose the officer's reputation to defense lawyers.

The Phoenix Police Department's professional standards bureau is reviewing the posts for misconduct. Police Chief Jeri Williams said she has taken officers who made particularly egregious posts off of their "enforcement assignments" and placed them on desk duty, though she declined to specify which officers or how many.

As The Daily Beast reported yesterday, 13 Philadelphia police officers will be fired over their racist posts included in the Plain View Project's database.

Some have criticized PLEA's move to scrub officer's online histories, including State Senator Martin Quezada.

"This is @azplea doing all they can to cover up the problem rather than taking steps to actually address the problem," Quezada wrote. "They should be scrubbing those officers from the force. We need an association committed to building trust and establishing good practices. Not this."

Quezada's tweet earned the ire of PLEA, which responded by saying, ""What factual problem are you speaking of? Please provide the provable premise to your public conclusion. NO officer has been disciplined in the investigation mentioned in the tweet by Will. Are you publicly implying that our association is covering a problem up?"

No officer has yet been disciplined because the investigation started last month and investigations like these, carried out by the department's professional standards bureau, typically take several months to complete. However, many of the posts speak for themselves and are clearly inappropriate, particularly when police officers joked about using excessive force against citizens or refusing to help when called.

The move to scrub officers' online presence "has nothing to do with hiding or ignoring anything," London told the Arizona Republic, despite the fact that London brought up the scrub immediately after mentioning the investigation into Facebook posts. "It has everything to do with keeping police officers and their families safe from those who continue to attack them online.”

After the initial blowback from the Facebook posts, London dismissed criticism of Phoenix police officers' Facebook posts as a "hunt for a negative spin" and decried the fact that the database did not include positive social media posts officers had made.

Some of the more shocking posts in the database include: "CONGRATULATIONS GEORGE ZIMMERMAN!!! Thank you for cleaning up our community one thug at a time." Phoenix police officer Joshua Ankert wrote that on July 14, 2013, the day after Zimmerman was acquitted of murder for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

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Gary Gombar's Facebook post
"Just drove through Ferguson. Didn't see any problems," read the caption on a photo of a bloodied truck with a mangled corpse stuck to the front shared by police Sergeant Gary Gombar.