York investigates officers’ offensive posts, releases findings

York

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – York’s mayor and police chief have responded to a report about police officers who may have crossed the line on social media.

The Plain View Project examined and published a database of 3,500 Facebook posts of active-duty and former police officers from eight cities across the United States, including York, over at least seven years.

After the findings were published, Mayor Michael Helfrich, Chief Troy Bankert, and internal affairs reviewed each post associated with York police officers. They said 121 were associated with city officers and 114 of those were from retired or former officers, including one retired officer who made 87 of the posts and retired 16 years ago. Another officer who posted left the department over 30 years ago.

Seven posts were made by current officers. Officials said those posts occurred either before or after the officer was employed by York and “although may be perceived as insensitive, did not promote positive police relations with community.”

“Two posts of most concern were made from an officer who was at the time of the posting, employed elsewhere. Since this was prior to his employment with the York City Police Department, no action can be taken,” the officials wrote in a statement. 

The database includes a 2014 Facebook post purportedly by Galen Detweiler, a York officer who worked for Baltimore police at the time. “Bucket list: punch a guy so hard he poops himself,” the post said. The comment had a checkmark next to it. 

Officials said the five remaining posts were found to not advocate violence against citizens.

“Although some of the posts were found to be unnecessarily controversial, officers affected, and the entire department was instructed about the impact of posts on the community,” the statement reads. “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 collective bargaining agreement.” 

“It was expressed by Mayor Helfrich and Chief Bankert to all officers that we have not and will not tolerate social media posts that diminish public trust of the police department,” the statement concludes. “In regard to hiring, Mayor Helfrich and Chief Bankert added a search of social media for all newly hired officer’s background checks and psychological suitability since January 2018.”

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