York City investigating after cops' Facebook posts compiled by Plain View Project

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
York City Police Department, 50 W. King Street, York. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

York City officials have launched an internal investigation after learning that public Facebook posts from some city police officers are listed on a research website called the Plain View Project.

The Plain View Project is composed of a group of Philadelphia attorneys who began compiling public posts from individual police officers in 2016 after learning that Philadelphia-area officers had posted content on their personal Facebook pages that appeared to endorse violence, racism and bigotry, according to the project’s website, www.plainviewproject.org.

“We believe that these statements could erode civilian trust and confidence in police,” the website states.

The Plain View Project has so far targeted eight cities around the United States, including York and Philadelphia. The project website lists 120 posts from York City officers, 3,132 posts from Philadelphia police officers and 1,048 from Dallas police officers. That includes current, former and retired officers.

York City Police Chief Troy Bankert noted in a written statement, “The York City Police Department has a social media policy which prohibits speech that negatively impacts the York City Police Department and the citizens of the City of York while still respecting officers’ First Amendment rights. The city is internally investigating the posts published by the Plain View Project and will take disciplinary action if any is warranted.”

Of the 120 officer posts compiled from York City, nearly all were made by former York City Police Capt. Keith Ressler, who retired in 2003. All of his posts were made after he retired.

Three posts from recently retired York City internal-affairs Sgt. Craig Losty appear on the project’s website, including one that suggests Muslims are murderers.

Losty's other two posts are updated profile photo memes: “I’m an American, your approval is not required” and “Laws do not stop evil men. Good men stop evil men.” The posts were made between 2015 and 2017, while Losty was still on active duty.

On Wednesday, June 5, Losty told The York Dispatch he doesn't view any of those posts to be racist.

"I don't know how you even construe that as racism — unless you view being an American as being racist," he said.

Facebook posts either from or about three current York City officers also appear on the website.

Post from York City Police Lt. Roger Nestor's Facebook page

Toby Keith photo: There are four posts on the project website from Lt. Roger Nestor, commander of the police department’s Community Services Division. One is a photo of him shaking the hand of country music singer Toby Keith.

Nestor prefaced the photo with a line from one of Keith’s songs: “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way!”

Nestor’s other posts include him opining that a “well placed explosive charge” or a bullet could solve the international problem of Joseph Kony, Ugandan terrorist and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, who was indicted in 2005 for war crimes, including  allegedly forcing thousands of children to become soldiers or sex slaves. Kony has so far evaded capture.

All of Nestor’s posts compiled by the Plain View Project were made in 2012, before he took the helm at the Community Services Division.

The project also found two Facebook posts from city Officer Galen Detweiler, including one from 2014 in which he wrote, “Bucket list: Punch a guy so hard he poops himself.” In a reply comment, he explained that he punched the man because the man was physically assaulting Detweiler's partner.

Detweiler in 2012 posted a link to a video of an “activist cameraman” being shocked with a Taser inside a courthouse.

At the times of both postings, he was a Baltimore City police officer.

Post from York City Police Officer Galen Detweiler's Facebook page

Caught on video: Detweiler made the news in 2017 when a video of him repeatedly punching a woman in the face went viral.

The woman, Melissa Dyann Penn, was being arrested outside Pandora’s Box, a bar at  466 E. Market St., in the early-morning hours of July 3, 2017, for refusing to leave the property.

Penn was “extremely confrontational,” resisted arrest, kicked Detweiler in the sternum and started to put her hands around his neck, according to his testimony. In response, he punched Penn four times in the face “in an effort to daze and disorient her,” Detweiler has testified.

Penn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to resisting arrest and defiant trespass. She was sentenced to three months of house arrest, followed by probation.

York City’s police chief at the time, Wes Kahley, said Detweiler did what he had to do to prevent himself from being injured and to take Penn into custody.

Penn filed a lawsuit against Detweiler and the department in federal court, which remains active, according to court records.

Some postings from officers in the other seven departments targeted by the Plain View Project appear to call for, or tacitly support, violence and death to Muslims, “thugs” and liberals.

A Philadelphia officer, Brian Cain, wrote, “How long until a law abiding, gun permit carrying Trump supporter decides his life is in danger and blows away one of these domestic terrorist democrats?”

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.