York City cops on notice about offensive social media posts

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

All active York City police officers have been warned that posting offensive statements, links or memes on social media will have consequences, according to a news release.

The department's Friday, June 14, release also states that the impact such posts can have in a community was explained to officers.

"It was expressed by Mayor (Michael) Helfrich and Chief (Troy) Bankert to all officers that we have not and will not tolerate social media posts that diminish public trust of the police department," the news release states.

The police department, its internal affairs office and Helfrich reviewed all the posts from York City officers that were compiled and made public by the Plain View Project, according to the release.

The Plain View Project is 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.

The project has so far targeted eight cities in the United States, including York and Philadelphia. The project website lists 5,096 total posts, of which 120 were made by current, former and retired York City officers.

Departmental policy: Bankert has said that his department has a social media policy that prohibits speech that "negatively impacts" the city police department or the city itself.

"Officers must understand that while they retain their first amendment rights, their posts reflect the department and the profession, regardless if they are in violation of policy and/or (their) collective bargaining agreement," Friday's release states.

The internal review determined no discipline was warranted because egregious posts were made either before officers were hired by York City or after they retired. The handful of posts made by active officers who were York City officers at the time didn't advocate violence, according to the release.

A more detailed breakdown of the officers' posts can be found here:

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

City officials met with local community leaders to apprise them of the internal review's findings, as well as actions taken by the police department, according to the release.

In January 2018, Helfrich and Bankert revised the police department's routine hiring process to include reviewing all prospective officers' social media pages, the release states.

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.

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