The Philadelphia-based Plain View Project has performed a necessary service for St. Louis and other U.S. cities by tracking police officers’ Facebook postings and outing those who openly express their prejudices. It’s hardly surprising that racists are serving in St. Louis’ police force. Perhaps more surprising are the feeble expressions of shock by St. Louis officials about these latest revelations.
The Plain View Project identified 22 current and 21 former St. Louis officers who could be traced to offensive postings denigrating blacks and Muslims.
The police department’s 60 to 70 sergeants will undergo sensitivity training starting this week, followed by gradual inclusion of the rest of the police force. Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards cited declining numbers of objectionable posts as evidence that tougher social media policies imposed by the city were yielding positive results.
Declining numbers of posts are not, however, an indication that racism is being eradicated. These officers’ presence on the force sends a disturbing message that their decisions to crack heads and make arrests might be motivated by something beyond a quest to serve and protect.
The First Amendment protects all citizens’ rights to express their views, no matter how hideous they might be. But police officers are bound by city rules restricting employees’ use of social media in ways that disparage people based on race, color, religion, sexual orientation and other factors.
Sensitivity training or not, these officers have no business earning a paycheck on the taxpayers’ dime. The sooner they’re gone, the safer our streets will be.