An anonymous and prolific poster on the Rant, a law-enforcement message board where current and former police officers vent, often in racist, misogynistic, and homophobic terms, may be a high-ranking NYPD officer in charge of fighting workplace harassment. This morning the City Council Oversight and Investigations Division released a report on Deputy Inspector James Kobel, who appears to have posted hundreds of racist comments using the pretty unimaginative nom de plume “Clouseau.” A City Council investigator came across Clouseau’s posts while browsing the Rant after seeing the message board mentioned in New York Magazine.
In more than 500 now-deleted posts, Clouseau railed against Black people, Puerto Ricans, Hasidic Jews, and others. He called Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who is Black, “a gap-toothed wildebeest,” Barack Obama a “Muslim savage,” Representative Ilhan Omar a “filthy animal,” and the mayor’s son, Dante de Blasio, a “brillohead.” When City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, demanded the NYPD investigate pedestrian stops, Clouseau posted, “Perhaps we should all take a step back from Stop, Question, and Maybe Frisk, until dear old Corey ends up the victim of a crime in one of the local bathhouses.” Late last December, Clouseau asked his fellow posters on the Rant to place bets on the first homicide of the year. He then offered his best guess: a gunshot wound in the Bronx “over the last piece of jerk chicken at a buffet.”
Councilmember Ritchie Torres called the report “a bombshell” and one of his final acts as chair of the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division before he heads to Congress. One of Torres’s investigators connected Kobel, who has been on the force for more than 28 years, to Clouseau by matching personal details Closeau dropped in his anonymous posts to publicly available information about Kobel. For example, Clouseau said that he joined the police department on June 30, 1992, the same day Kobel joined the NYPD. Last October, Clouseau mentioned that he’d proposed to his wife on December 10, 2005. A New York Post gossip column published on December 15, 2005 congratulated Kobel on his engagement. Clouseau and Kobel share other commonalities, including the year their fathers died (at the same age, after serving the same length of time in the NYPD), the date their mothers died, and the fact that they’re both the youngest of seven children.
Until yesterday, Kobel, 50, served as commander of the NYPD’s Equal Employment Opportunity Division, a subunit of the department’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, whose mission is to foster “an equitable and inclusive work environment” through work that has a “direct impact on how our employees interact with the diverse communities we serve.” Kobel’s unit, the EEO division, was responsible for facilitating changes in guidelines, including “the NYPD’s policy on pregnancy and lactation, beards, religious head coverings, and transgender policies.”
In a screed about officers who wear beards for religious purposes, Clouseau wrote, “The Muslims flat-out refuse to assimilate.” In other posts, he called two female NYPD officers of color “gutter sluts,” and a Palestinian-American NYPD lieutenant a “goat-fucking Palestinian scum bag.” He wrote that Eric Garner was “a morbidly obese, diabetes havin’, high blood pressure ignorin’, asthma havin’, chicken wing eatin’, grape soda drinkin’, loosie sellin’ fat bastard.”
Inspector Kobel, 50, denied to the New York Times that he was behind Clouseau. “I am unfamiliar with any of these posts,” he said. “I’m unfamiliar with ‘Clouseau.’ I don’t post on the Rant.”
Last night a new thread popped up on the Rant. A handful of posters in “I am Clouseau Roll Call” took to the message board in an apparent nod to the line “I am Spartacus” in Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus. All of them did so anonymously.
The Rant has been around for more than 20 years and is well known in the law enforcement community (it even seems to have inspired a 2009 play at the New Jersey Repertory Company). While the NYPD has strict social-media policies and will discipline officers found publicly posting racist comments on Facebook, it did not open an investigation into Kobel until the City Council provided the department with its report on October 14. Since then, an ongoing Internal Affairs Bureau investigation reportedly found an email on Kobel’s personal computer from the Rant and on his personal cell phone found a copy of the photo Clouseau used as his avatar — a picture of Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. On Thursday, Kobel was relieved of his command and placed on modified assignment.
“The NYPD knew of the existence of Law Enforcement Rant and it did nothing to uncover the identities of those officers,” said Torres. “It speaks to the complacency and casual bigotry of the old boys network at the NYPD. The most hateful person was put in charge of fighting hate in the police department. That’s a profound failure of due diligence on the part of NYPD leadership. It turns out the equal employment opportunity officer is an equal opportunity bigot.”