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Texas officers punished amid nationwide fallout over racist, violent Facebook posts

72 cops off duty over controversial posts

Police officers in Texas are facing consequences amid nationwide fallout over racist and violent Facebook posts revealed earlier this month by a watchdog group. The Denison Police Department, one of eight jurisdictions where officers' social media activity was reviewed by the Plain View Project, said Thursday that one officer was no longer with the department, one was issued a written reprimand, and two others were "appropriately counseled."

"The City of Denison takes allegations of racism, hate, and violence extremely seriously, whether they are expressed directly or indirectly through action or word, and such conduct does not reflect the standard to which we hold our employees," city manager Judson Rex said in a press statement. "There is absolutely no room in Denison for such things."

The Plain View Project, started in 2017 by a group of attorneys in Philadelphia, reviewed Facebook posts and comments by 3,500 officers or former officers from eight law enforcement jurisdictions across the country — St. Louis; Dallas; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Denison, Texas; Twin Falls, Idaho; York, Pennsylvania; and Lake County, Florida. The group maintains a database of about 5,000 Facebook posts and comments they say could undermine public trust and confidence in police.

"We started this project because we wanted a conversation about sub cultures in policing," Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White, who leads the Plain View Project, told CBS News' Jeff Pegues. "I'm really happy that that conversation is happening on a national level."

Investigations are underway in all eight jurisdictions the group reviewed, the Plain View Project told CBS News. Here's a look at where those investigations stand. 

Denison, Texas

The statement released by the City of Denison on Thursday said city officials reviewed six posts by four current or former Denison officers and weighed whether the officers, who admitted posting the material between 2011 and 2017, violated the city's policies. Two of the posts pre-date the officers' employment with the city, the statement said, but four policy violations were sustained.

The city said "the severity of the misconduct greatly varied" and "the resulting outcome for the officers reflects this determination."

The department said the officers would undergo additional sensitivity training and all staff would receive training in the department's social networking policy.

Protesters demand Philadelphia officers be fired over racist posts

Philadelphia

The development in Texas came after Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross Jr. announced on Wednesday that 72 police officers had been placed on desk duty as investigators review more than 3,000 troubling posts linked to 328 officers. Ross said he expected some to face discipline and return to duty, and others to be terminated. He also said all police personnel would undergo anti-bias training.

"We will not be shy about meting out the appropriate discipline," Ross said. "We need to get it right for the community that looks to us for protection and guidance."

Community activists have called for all of the 328 officers to be placed on desk duty as the investigation continues, and on Thursday protesters called for the 72 officers already on desk duty to be fired, Pegues reports. Chicago non-profit Injustice Watch revealed that about a third of the 328 officers accused of posting the racist and violent content have had one or more civil rights lawsuits filed against them, Pegues reports.

In a statement released to CBS Philly, Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby defended his force and called the investigation "overly-broad."

St. Louis

Also Wednesday, St. Louis Circuit Prosecutor Kim Gardner announced that 22 St. Louis police officers identified by the Plain View Project would be barred from presenting evidence to her office due to racist and anti-Muslim Facebook posts. The St. Louis Police Department confirmed its internal affairs investigation to CBS News, but would not comment about disciplinary action until after the review is complete. 

City policy prevents employees from posting content that "disparages a person or group of persons based on that person's or group's race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, national origin, ancestry, religion, marital status, disability, or age."

Employees are also barred from threatening violence on social media, according to the policy. Officers already undergo sensitivity training, a city spokesperson said.

Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers' Association, blasted the prosecutor's decision in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"If these officers are determined to have engaged in misconduct, we have a process," he said. "There's no due process in what Kim Gardner did today. It's just panic at the disco."

Dallas

In a statement, Dallas police said the department was working with the Plain View Project's founder to gain a complete list of names and posts of every Dallas Police Department employee flagged and determining whether any policies were violated.

The department said it would release the findings publicly once their investigation was completed.

"We take these matters seriously and we want to ensure the community that we will not tolerate racism, bigotry or hatred of any kind in our organization," a statement said.

Ekram Haque, interim executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Dallas/Fort Worth chapter, in a statement condemned some of the posts as Islamophobic and racist.

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said some posts may merely be dark humor or have been taken out of context, but he said the department should act if something is "a shock to the conscience."

Phoenix

In Phoenix, the group flagged 200 posts linked to 77 current and 22 former department employees, Phoenix Police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson told CBS News. An internal investigation is underway. The department does not investigate former employees for misconduct, Thompson said.

Twelve current employees have been placed in non-enforcement assignments, Thompson said. The department is working to determine whether any policies were violated, but any disciplinary action wouldn't be determined until the investigation is completed.

Thompson said department employees attend cultural awareness and bias training.

"We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and we are always concerned about the impact any officer misconduct might have on our relationship with the community," Thompson said.

The department has been under fire after officers pointed guns at a couple with two young children after an alleged shoplifting incident last month. Bystander video of the incident has drawn national outrage. The names of the officers in that incident have not been released.

York, Pennsylvania

Officials in York, Pennsylvania, told CBS News they reviewed 121 posts by current or former York officers, and of those 114 were from retired or former officers — 87 from the same former officer. Seven posts were made by current officers between 2012 and 2015, the city said, but none were posted while the officer was employed with the department, so officials say no disciplinary action can be taken.

A city statement said "the entire department was instructed about the impact of the posts on the city."

"It was expressed by [York] Mayor [Michael] Helfrich and [York Police] Chief [Troy] Bankert to all officers that we have not and will not tolerate social media posts that diminish public trust of the police department," the statement said.

The police department in Twin Falls, Idaho did not respond to a request for comment from CBS News. The Lake County Sheriff's Department fielded a request for comment, but couldn't immediately provide answers to a detailed list of questions.

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