The NYPD appears to have had no shame when it came to the annual West Indian Labor Day Parade held in Brooklyn this year. Videos of officers dancing with women who were apart of the festivities were widely circulated, but in light of recent news in The New York Times of a “No More West Indian Day Detail” Facebook Group where officers shared their racist thoughts on the event, it would appear the dancing cops were merely poking fun at the “animals” and “savages” participating in the parade.
Those were just two of the comments left on the wall of the group which had 1,200 members. Others included, “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out.” “Let them kill each other” was posted under a name that matched that of a police officer; Nick Virgilio, whose name also matches a police officer, wrote, “Filth,” and yet another said, “It’s not racist if it’s true.”
While few officers were concerned that the discussion, which appears to violate the Police Department’s rules against “discourteous or disrespectful remarks” about race or ethnicity, might be reported to internal affairs, an analysis found that the cops were at times encouraged by civilians and other city workers, including members of the Fire Department. A comparison by The Times of the names of some of the more than 150 people who posted comments on the page with city employee listings showed that more than 60 percent matched the names of police officers.
A commenter who identified himself as Dan Rodney, wrote, “I say have the parade one more year, and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out.” Mr. Rodney confirmed that he was a police officer and that he had used Facebook, but denied making the comment. “That wasn’t me,” he told The Times, suggesting that someone else might have been responsible. “I leave my phone around sometimes. Other than that I have no comment.”
Some were more toned in their remarks, noting the safety concerns of the event. “It’s a scheduled riot,” one person wrote. Another commented, “We were widely outnumbered. It was an eerie feeling knowing we could be overrun at any moment.”
Benjamin Moore and Paul Lieberman of Brooklyn Defender Services found the comments on the group’s open Facebook wall and put them before a jury in a gun-possession trial concerning a man who was arrested at the parade in 2010. The attorneys suggested that Sgt. Dustin Edwards planted the gun and used the ranting to back up the claim of racially targeted arrests. The remarks garnered little attention outside of the courtroom, so they sent a digital copy of the Facebook conversation to The Times. The printed document runs 70 pages.
In the end, the gun possession charge was dropped, and a spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney said the office would investigate any matters stemming from the trial referred to it by the Police Department. It will be interesting to see if they keep their word.
Do you think officers who commented on the group page should be reprimanded? What do you think about continuation of the West Indian Day Parade in lieu of the violence and ill police relations that continue to be an issue every year?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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