Wickedly Racist Posts on New York Police Blog Raise Anger at Time of Tension

© Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images New York Police Department (NYPD) officers patrol in Queens in October 2014.
© Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images New York Police Department (NYPD) officers patrol in Queens in October 2014.

Week after week, racist posts appear on Thee Rant, a blog for current or former New York City police officers: African Americans are called “apes;” a retired officer says one of the blessings of retirement is not having to work the Puerto Rican Day parade, with its “old obese tatted up women stuffed into outfits that they purchased or shoplifted at the local Kmart store; a Middle Eastern cab driver berated by an officer is termed a “third worlder” who should have his “head split open.”

And week after week, the department’s top officials are, at once, embarrassed and powerless.

“It’s very disturbing stuff. Outrageous stuff,” said Stephen Davis, the chief spokesman for the NYPD. “We see it. It’s a problem.”

At the heart of the problem are the limits the department faces in what it can do.

“Monitoring these things is challenging,” Davis said. “There are privacy issues involved. We can’t go and peel back email names and tags and try to find out who these people are.”

The issue of the blog, started by former NYPD officer Ed Polstein in 1999, has gained notoriety most recently after a white South Carolina police officer shot a black man to death. Shortly after a video of the officer appearing to shoot the fleeing man in the back went viral on the Internet, Thee Rant blew up with comments.

“Cop looked good in his stance,” read one post.

Polstein, who did not respond to requests for an interview, has said previously that anyone wishing to post on the blog has to provide proof that they are a current or former member of the NYPD. But whether they are, and how many have signed up, are among the many mysteries surrounding Thee Rant. The blog says it garners 120,000 page views daily.

Leonard Levitt, a respected former Newsday reporter who runs the website NYPD Confidential, said he has stopped assigning much significance to Thee Rant.

“To be honest, I don’t read it,” Levitt said. “I’d say these guys represent the worst elements of the department. I don’t think they speak for the average cop. I have a feeling it’s four or five guys doing most of the yowling.”

Incidents of officers being investigated or punished for their behavior online, in social media or on personal cell phones, have cropped up in Illinois, Missouri and Florida in recent weeks and months.

In a St. Louis suburb, for instance, an officer was fired after posting racist remarks about the protests in Ferguson. In San Francisco, eight officers were fired for exchanging racist and homophobic text messages.

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Source: ProPublica | Joaquin Sapien

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