The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Facebook and the NYPD

Posted by vmsalama on December 6, 2011

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times today about officers with the New York Police Department making malicious comments on Facebook about parade goers at the recent West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn. The officers in question referred to people as “animals” and “savages.” One comment said, “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out,” according to the report by William Glaberson.

I’m a bit torn on how i feel about this. While I’m certainly an advocate of free speech (and not naive to prejudices in the world and, certainly, among police forces across the country), I do feel that certain professions must do more to punish their own for expressing certain opinions on the web when it goes against their practice. The NYPD apparently has restrictions on officers who post “disrespectful remarks” on the internet — but how can they “police” all the remarks of the 34,500 officers in the NYPD?

In Journalism, for example, I am a big fan of restricted social media because while journalists are entitled to their opinions, certain opinions run the risk of jeopardizing objectivity. If that journalist is linked to a news organization, it threatens the objectivity of the entire newspaper/network, or whatever.For police officers, I suppose it goes back to any amendment that judges a man based on color or creed. The fourteenth amendment, for example, states that: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

But by not posting their opinions on Facebook or any other social media platform change the fact that these men have an obvious bias? Would their treatment of anyone from, in this case, the West Indies, be any different or any less apparent had they not posted their remarks? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

On a related note, I’d love any recs on good articles or books on policing the internet/internet security — it relates to a project I’m working on. Thanks in advance!

Photo by Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Photo by Kirsten Luce for The New York Times


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