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NYPD Says Racist Facebook Rant on Parade 'Unacceptable'

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Marchers in the 2011 West Indian-American Day carnival parade. Marchers in the 2011 West Indian-American Day carnival parade. (Mansoor Khan/WNYC)

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday that internal affairs believes at least 20 offensive Facebook comments in which West Indian Day parade-goers were called "savages" and "filth" may have been made by NYPD officers.

The comment Wednesday comes after two lawyers made the Facebook group public.

It is disturbing when anyone denigrates a community with hateful speech," Kelly said in a statement. "It is unacceptable when police officers do it."

The Facebook page, which has since been taken offline, was discovered by Benjamin Moore and Paul Lieberman who were representing a man arrested for gun possession near the Brooklyn parade route when they came across the discussion thread “No More West Indian Day Detail.”

“The Police Department is investigating and will handle the matter appropriately, as they always do," said Stu Loeser, a spokesman for the mayor's office. "If the comments reported are accurate and from the officers, they are completely unacceptable.”

It could not be confirmed whether any of the posters who identified themselves as police in the group were in fact cops. The police department did not return request for comment.

"They should bring in the national guard!!!" wrote one poster, referring to the regular acts of violence at the parade. "Let the government handle these animals."

Moore and Lieberman made the document with the Facebook postings available to reporters on Tuesday. Their client was acquitted in part, they claim, because the arresting officer was a member of the Facebook page.

"If people who have the power to place other people under arrest, to take away other people's liberty, hold viewpoints such as these, I think it is an occasion to take a step back," said Moore, "and to look at why certain people are being arrested."

Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services, said the comments spoke to a "culture" within the police department.

“And I do think that many of the arrests do reflect those attitudes and that culture," she said.

At this year's parade, officers were caught on video dancing suggestively with female parade-goers. They also handcuffed and detained City Council member Jumaane Williams, who represents the neighborhood. Williams suggested the fact he is black contributed to the episode.

Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that if the NYPD determines that the comments were in fact made by uniformed officers, it would have a strong case for firing them.

"They’re undermining the efficiency and good order of the department and besmirching its ability to be effective," he said, noting that "if you're involved in that kind of talk, you have a constitutional right to free speech but not a constitutional right to be a police officer."

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Comments [4]

SKV from NYC

Responding to John From Office -- the comments aren't "stupid", they're vicious, racist hate rants. There's a big difference.

We don't want police who think the citizens they're supposed to protect and defend (and who pay their salaries) are subhuman.

The cops who posted on that Facebook page should find another line of work.

Dec. 08 2011 12:03 AM
Smythe from Manhattan

Those who think it is OK or a matter of free speech to label an entire community participating in the West Indian Day Parade as "animals", "savages" and "filth" because of the behavior of a relative few should have no problem with the NYPD being labeled as "racist" because of the postings of a few officers on Facebook.

Do you get it now?

Dec. 07 2011 04:07 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

This is a strange, strange story. Anyone affiliated with the NYPD should really know better than to post comments like this publicly. Are they really that stupid to think they have PRIVACY on Facebook?! And if they're that stupid, do I want these officers to "protect and serve" me? The West Indian Day Parade is attended by thousands of people who are going, simply, to have a good time, and it's really sad that it attracts a small element of aggressive thugs who can turn a fun, family event into something potentially negative. The NYPD should know better than to judge thousands of people by the actions of a small few.

The flip side to this is, I'm so tired of knee-jerk, political correctness, and the inability to say anything negative about anyone who isn't white.

I live in a racially and economically-mixed neighborhood, where block by block, the vibe and type of person living there changes. I have witnessed young men shooting each other at very close range, and scaring the hell out of neighbors, and putting so many innocent people at risk - on more than one occasion. I have watched and listened to teenaged mothers shaking, and screaming "shut the f up" to their toddlers, who are doing nothing more than being toddlers.

People who live in my neighborhood - black and white - call these people "animals" and "trash" and "scum" not because the color of their skin, but because they are people who behave in a way that seems "inhuman" to your average person, of any race and ethnicity.

As a person who affiliates as a liberal, I am able to take a step back and say "poverty caused these people to behave this way, and it's really sad to see how people raised in poverty take on the worst behaviors and attributes of their parents, and harm themselves and others."

But as a person who had a shooting happen in front of my house, and watched neighbors running and screaming, do you think I used my intellectual rationale in that moment? No. I, thought "these people are scum, because they're making everyone else's lives worst by perpetuating their violence and ignorant behavior."

If you have to see this behavior up close and personal, on a regular basis, and have up close communication with people who's main form of communication, 24-7, is to be hard and aggressive, it gets that much harder to be rational and take that step back. But also, if someone is violent or putting innocent people at risk of harm, it should be ok to criticize that person (or group of people perpetuating a particular behavior) - without being labeled a racist.

Dec. 07 2011 10:40 AM
John from office

While the comments are stupid, the fact is that that "parade" is a wild event with open drinking and drug use. I have worked that event as an officer and did not like the task. How about some self policing by the "community" of wild behavior, is open sex and drug use really "a cultural" celebration??

I know, I know I am a racist and am unable to see the empowerment of the event.

Dec. 07 2011 08:55 AM

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