The Philadelphia Police Department moved to fire 15 officers and discipline many more in 2019 after racist, discriminatory or offensive Facebook posts from officers were found. Yet, only one of those firings has been upheld by an arbitrator since, and five have had their firings reversed, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Six other repeals remain and three settled with the city. Some of those who won their grievances opted for retirement, and some who were suspended have had their penalties downgraded. The downgraded penalties allowed those officers to get back pay. Another group of involved officers has filed a lawsuit accusing the department of First Amendment violations. A federal appeals court said the case could move forward, reversing a previous judge’s decision to toss it out.
These developments have unfolded over time away from the spotlight and have occurred even as arbitrators and judges have sought to make clear that many of the posts that prompted the officers’ discipline were clearly discriminatory or objectionable. Posts promoted violence, expressed anti-Muslim views, or made misogynistic or homophobic comments that some later said were jokes. For instance, Thomas Young, who was suspended with intent to dismiss in July 2019, routinely commented on posts from conservative news sites and called for a ban on Islam in the United States in ways that department officials felt denigrated immigrants from the Middle East. An arbitrator ruled last year that Young’s termination should be reduced to a 30-day suspension. The officers’ posts first came to light in June 2019 when a group of advocates studying biases in policing published a database called the Plain View Project.