ST. LOUIS – Dozens of current and former officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are under investigation for allegedly sharing hateful posts on Facebook.
A new study–labeled The Plain View Project–examined personal social media posts by police officers from eight departments across the country. Its findings are setting off alarm bells from the mayor’s office in St. Louis to halls of Congress.
“Over 400 racist, violent, or bigoted Facebook posts by current or former S. Louis Metropolitan Police were also revealed,” said Congressman Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis).
He cited the Plain View Project’s findings before the House Oversight subcommittee hearing on the federal response to violence possibly fueled by white supremacists.
“Looking at almost 25 percent of local and state law enforcement posting hateful things on social media, that tells me there’s a culture problem in law enforcement in this country,” Clay said.
The Plain View Project’s website shows posts from going back to at least 2013.
They are most often memes or photos shared from elsewhere plus associated comments.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson released a statement saying the police department has launched an Internal Affairs investigation. She hinted at stern consequences for those involved saying, “These posts are disturbing and unacceptable…we expect professionalism out of every city employee. No exceptions.”
“Everybody needs to be able to know if they’re in trouble, they need protection, they pick up the phone, they call 911. It doesn’t matter who you are, what religion you are, what race you are, no matter what,” said Emily Baker-White, a former Philadelphia federal public defender.
Baker-White said she launched the Plain View Project after uncovering troubling police Facebook posts while investigating a case in 2016.
Twenty-two current St. Louis officers had shared offensive posts or added offensive comments to those post, she said.
That amounts to two percent or less of the close to 1,100-member police force.
“To the extent that these images could tell members of the community the police aren’t in my corner, that’s what we want to fix here,” Baker-White said. “Because our police officers are heroes, they work for us. We want a police force that’s going to do that. We want a community that’s going to know that.”
Jeff Roorda, Businessman Manager of the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, told Fox 2/News 11 he had reached out to Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in response to their concerns.
He would not comment on what he called “speculation” that the posts were actually made by officers until that was verified.
The Ethical Society of Police released an official statement stating:
“The Ethical Society of Police (“ESOP”) believes the most recent allegations of racism, bigotry, and intolerance openly expressed on social media sites is very disturbing. Hostility toward a group of people should not be allowed to flourish on any platform. This is especially true when the target groups consist of citizens that we are sworn to protect and serve. A deep dive investigation is warranted into these allegations and the ESOP supports it 100 percent. Residents need to know that the Department will not tolerate employees using social media or other platforms to spew animus at citizens simply based on their immutable characteristics. Purging the Department of this type of mindset must be of the utmost importance. The citizens of St. Louis deserve better and the Police Department can do better. So we await with great anticipation the results.”
Those involved openly identified themselves as current or former St. Louis police officers in their Facebook posts, comments, or profiles, Baker-White said.