NYPD + Facebook (Someone did not read the privacy settings…)

Today in class, we briefly discussed the current problem that the New York Police Department is facing. Recently a Facebook group was uncovered, in which police officers assigned to the West Indian Day Parade were venting with highly offensive language, referring to parade-goers as “savages” and “animals”. Below are some of the comments found on the Facebook page.

The comments in the group included anger at police and city officials and expressions of anxiety about policing what has often been a dangerous event. “Why is everyone calling this a parade,” one said. “It’s a scheduled riot.” Another said: “We were widely outnumbered. It was an eerie feeling knowing we could be overrun at any moment.”

“Welcome to the Liberal NYC Gale,” said another, “where if the cops sneeze too loud they get investigated for excessive force but the ‘civilians’ can run around like savages and there are no repercussions.”

“They can keep the forced overtime,” said one writer, adding that the safety of officers comes “before the animals.”

Wrote another: “Bloodbath!!! The worst detail to work.”

“I say have the parade one more year,” wrote a commenter who identified himself as Dan Rodney, “and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out.”

Coincidentally, I just finished reading The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation of the Edge, by T.J. English, a book describing the interracial tensions between Blacks, Puerto Ricans and White police officers during the 60s, 70s and early 80s. Within the book, English focuses on cases in which institutional discrimination shaped the lives of Blacks and White Officers during this period. A lot of the language above was common in the ways that White officers referred to minorities in these decades, begging the question has discrimination decreased in the NYPD or simply gone underground? If so, how can this be targeted and erased?

While I do believe discrimination has decreased in the NYPD due to higher integration of minority groups, at the same time the issue of police officers enforcing rules in areas they do not live in creates a huge power dynamic, which takes on a racialized aspect in many parts that have a large percentage of minority residents.

Another issue which this situation raises is that of the role of Facebook. Were these thoughts meant to be inherently private, made in a moment of resentment with the comfort that is was private? This seems unlikely since the New York Times matched 60% of the names in the Facebook conversation with those of actual NYPD officers. If they did not intend for it to be private, then these police officers were not thinking straight in allowing their names to be used. This issue with Facebook, brings up a bit of the private vs. public conversation we had about our blog. The internet, Facebook especially, makes the creation of media easy, creating an instant gratifying release to pent up emotions.

The issue is then is how to address these issues. How can these discriminatory beliefs and opinions be removed from the NYPD, a group that already has a long history of racial insensitivity? Would there be a test or forcing officers to take a Race & Ethnicity sociology class?

To read more on this issue:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/06/nyregion/on-facebook-nypd-officers-malign-west-indian-paradegoers.html?pagewanted=all&src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/nyregion/nypd-under-criticism-for-insults-on-facebook.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion

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3 responses

  1. kryssy87 says:

    I believe the comments of the police officers were/are derogatory, discriminative, and racist. For those remarks to come out of any individual’s mouth, let alone police officers, I would still hold that same viewpoint. Basically they just called that whole group of people that are at the parade, that whole ethnicity (West Indian) savages and animals. And in my opinion, that is not right and that is not acceptable. Also, i have to disagree with you when you state that discrimination has decreased in the police department. If anything, I feel it has increased and that can be shown through the high statistic rates of minorities being randomly stopped and searched, being arrested and being indicted. It could also be shown through the high percentage rate of the minorities that are incarcerated to this day. As for facebook, not too much can be done about that because the U.S protects its citizens with the first admendament, freedom of speech. However, whoever started this page about the parade could have set his/her privacy to “private” where it would only allow friends on his/her page to view the content and comment versus the whole facebook world. And to me, that makes it even more blatant that this person purposely posted these for the whole world to see, reinforcing stereotypes. i don’t think a class or a test will change the viewpoints of these officers. Even one of the readings that we were assigned said racism does not start on an institutional level but rather at a personal level.

  2. ilonabubel says:

    I personally think its terrible for anyone to talk this way about anyone else. It is a shame that cops have the audacity to speak this way at all, especially publicly. If anything they need to understand that they are law enforcing individuals and are held to be an example of how to act. Instead they think it is alright to act in this way and be straight out racist and on a public website! It’s crazy they think they are invinsible or something. This is wrong and definitely needs to be corrected.

  3. T. Rivera says:

    For starters the comments made by the police officers is shocking, and hateful. To be in any line of work and degrade another people is wrong and hurtful, but to be a police officer and say these kinds of things publicly is worse. Officers are suppose to set an example and “keep the peace” and these quotes go against that. I think this facebook problem shows the issues with the Polices “untouchable” persona. I mean the reason the department is cracking down on police brutality is because they abused their power in the first place! If you have ever been stoped by the police its like you have done something wrong, before you have even done anything at all, and they talk to you like you are beneth them, and they have all the power. Also in regards to your question, I think discrimination in the NYPD has decreased because discrimination in society as a whole has decreased since the 70’s. However I think it looks like it has decreased more than it really has becasue it also has gone underground. New York has started to investigate and crackdown on police discrimination, so officers are simply going to hide there racist views so they dont get fired, but as you can see the truth comes out when you think no one important is watching.