The "No More West Indian Day Detail" group for NYPD officers has disappeared, but 70 pages of comments posted in the group, many of which contained violent, angry remarks concerning the celebration, have been given to the New York Times. Importantly, some of those comments were made by people matching the names of NYPD officers, who are forbidden from making “discourteous or disrespectful remarks” about race or ethnicity. And interestingly, the heated, potentially damaging comments from the 1,200-member group established in September were not scrutinized until November. It was then that attorneys from Brooklyn Defender Services, representing an unemployed client on a gun-possession charge, brought many of the colorful remarks before a jury to suggest bias and question police attitudes.
The West Indian American Day Parade was particularly violent this year, Gawker notes, as there were multiple shootings, resulting in one civilian fatality and an officer wounded in the arm. The Facebook group was basically a place where officers vented about parade violence and protested the detail work, although many of the comments were laced with racism and intense imagery. For example, one commenter wrote, "I say have the parade one more year, and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out.'"
Apparently some group members warned others "to beware how their words might be taken in a public setting open to Internal Affairs 'rats.'" However, it was not Internal Affairs that caught wind (or perhaps it ignored the group) — it was Benjamin Moore, one of the attorneys for Tyrone Johnson, who was charged with possession in the hours before the parade in 2010. The Times reports:
While preparing for the trial, Mr. Moore checked to see if the officer who had arrested his client, Sgt. Dustin Edwards, was on Facebook. He was. Mr. Moore noticed that Sergeant Edwards’s profile showed he belonged to a Facebook group formed, it said, for 'officers who are threatened by superiors and forced to be victims themselves by the violence of the West Indian Day massacre.'
No posts were tied to Sergeant Edwards, although Edwards did testify that he agreed with the statement that police officers were forced each year to become victims of the violence of the West Indian Day parade.
The comments speak for themselves, as does the parade's history of violence. And as predicted, the now-defunct group's records have landed in the lap of the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
If you needed more evidence that disparaging comments made on Facebook or elsewhere online may one day become public, particularly if the comments are open to the public, this is it.