Dallas Police discipline 13 officers over troubling Facebook posts

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Thirteen Dallas police officers have been disciplined following a department investigation into their Facebook posts after they were included in the Plain View Project database of social media activity by law enforcement officers in eight locales that could endanger public trust in policing.

The disciplined officers made posts on Facebook including comments that joked about using excessive force, displayed bias against women, Muslims and minority communities, and disregarded due process. The database was launched June 1 and included posts from officers in Dallas and seven other departments across the country; several of those departments have since launched reviews that led to discipline and retraining.

The results of the Dallas investigation, announced by the department Thursday night, sustained allegations of wrongdoing against a total of 16 officers following an investigation the department expanded to include posts from 2019, according to the department’s investigatory summary. Police officials found that each of the officers had violated department policies.

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Discipline for the officers ranges from counseling to unpaid suspensions, according to the department’s press release. Several of those officers hold leadership roles in the department.

The review, the department reported, included posts of 109 officers. Other officers who were not disciplined will receive additional training on cultural awareness and social media use, according to the press release.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall noted in a statement that all actions by police officers can impact community relations. “It is imperative that we operate with the highest level of ethics and integrity to ensure that the public is confident in the legitimacy of who we are as a law enforcement agency,” she said in the statement.

Injustice Watch broke the news of the Plain View Project research in a report co-published with Buzzfeed News. Many of the posts in the database displayed bias against Muslims, Black people, Mexicans and women, scoffed at due process, cheered violence or used dehumanizing language.

One of the officers featured in the Injustice Watch June report, Sgt. Booker Smith Jr., was among the disciplined Dallas officers. In a 2017 post about a homicide at a Dollar General store, Smith wrote, “Just another savage that needs to be exterminated.” Police investigators cited that post in outlining the investigations into Smith’s social media activity.

Dallas was the last of the four large police departments included in the database to issue formal discipline against employees related to the social media posts. In Philadelphia, the department announced its intention to fire 15 officers in September and issued some form of discipline to more than 150 others; In Phoenix, the police chief announced in October her intention to fire one officer and discipline 69 others; In St. Louis, police officials in November fired two officers whose posts were included in the Plain View Project’s database.