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BLACK PHILADEPHIA POLICE SUE OVER MESSAGE BOARD
A group of black Philadelphia police officers filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against their department, alleging an online forum geared toward city police is “infested with racist, white supremacist and anti-African-American content.”
The suit alleges white officers post on and moderate the privately operated site, Domelights.com, both on and off the job.
Domelights’ users “often joke about the racially offensive commentary on the site … or will mention them in front of black police officers,” thus creating “a racially hostile work environment,” according to lawyers for the all-black Guardian Civic League, the lead plaintiff in the suit.
A look at the site’s forums Friday for racist comments found several possibilities.
Reads one: “In urban areas, it seems [African-Americans] living on welfare in paid for housing is ingrained in their culture as well as fighting. … Kids, along with adults can’t speak proper English or spell at a 3rd grade level, but they can sing among “theyselves” the lyrics to a rap song.”
Said another Domelights user of an African-American woman: “She is a classic example of that exact non tax paying, no car insurance driving, bad weave wearing, all the whitey’s are racist black women.”
The site’s tagline is “the voice of the good guys.”
“Every time African-Americans do or say something in our city, we get this backlash of cops who think they’re anonymous on this Web site — just racist, nasty, hurtful things about what we do,” said Rochelle Bilal, the president of the Guardian Civic League and a 23-year veteran of the force.
The league’s attorney said other black officers echo Bilal’s statement.
“We’ve heard the same story over and over again, which is that [African-American officers] witness in the workplace Domelights being used and discussed [in a racial manner],” said Brian Mildenberg, whose firm is also representing several campers from a mostly black Philadelphia day camp that recently gained national attention when its members were turned away from a swim club.
He said it was “a gift from the heavens in a way that the two things happened at once.”
While Mildenberg and Bilal said they had been monitoring the 10-year-old Web site for years, the pool incident did seem to play into the timing of the lawsuit.
“When they said something about our pretty, brown, young, innocent children and called them monkeys because they wanted to go swimming, that was enough,” Bilal said.
She may have been referring to this comment posted on Domelights: “Maybe the people who work for a living didn’t want to swim with a bunch of ghetto monkey faces.”
The lawsuit also highlights comments made on Domelights by the site’s founder and administrator, a sergeant in the Philadelphia police force who goes by the online handle “McQ.”
A statement from McQ that Mildenberg described as “racially abusive commentary” reads, “Blacks and other minorities frequently don’t have the resources that white people have. Consequently, blacks may not be able to keep their vehicles inspected, registered, and roadworthy.”
McQ is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. Asked why McQ bears responsibility for the racist remarks of his site’s anonymous commenters, Mildenberg said it was because “he started it.”
The person known as McQ did not respond to a request for comment, but posted a message on the site citing the lawsuit. McQ wrote that the suit may cause the Web site to be suspended, but added his statement was not an admission of wrongdoing.
“I categorically deny any wrongdoing on my part,” the message reads. “I did not make racist posts. I did not maintain the Web site on city time.”
Ideally, Mildenberg said, his clients would like to see the site shut down. Failing that, they want Philadelphia police officers to be prohibited from posting comments on the site, particularly during working hours.
The plaintiffs in the class-action suit also are seeking unspecified financial damages available under the Civil Rights Act for Philadelphia’s 2,300 African-American police officers, according to Mildenberg.
Shelley Smith, Philadelphia’s city solicitor, said. “The lawsuit is about a private Web site. It’s not a police department Web site. It’s not operated or overseen by the police department. The allegations against the city and police department are misplaced.”
With each step we take forward, we take three steps back. Our denial that there is a problem on our shores, insures we will continue to wage wars on distant ones in order to satisfy our blood lust to denigrate, destroy or kill people who are “different” from us. We’ve taken more than 200 years to fix this problem of racialism in America and we still haven’t gotten it right! Wake up America and FIX THIS!
I’m so sorry, I meant to say for every step forward we take five or six steps backwards. In what could only be called momentously stupid, it appears Philadelphia police have taken the story above to another level. I now know why Obama was asked about the Gates story, because his remarks, while headed in the right direction, will not be sought after to comment on what follows.
After the Guardian Civic League sued Domelights last week in federal court, several postings on the site attacked league president Rochelle Bilal.
One said she “deserves to be gang-raped.”
Bilal, a sworn officer who works in narcotics intelligence, has been assigned officers from the dignitary protection unit to guard her during the investigation.
Two uniformed officers accompanied Bilal Wednesday night at a meeting at Guardian Civic League headquarters.
The investigation is to “determine if the threat requires any further police action,” said Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman.
Domelights, which is administered by a police sergeant, had been a public forum until this week, when access was restricted to registered users.
Last night, the site was disabled. A message posted by the site operator read: “Until further notice, all Domelights.com services (i.e. forums, galleries, blogs) have been suspended. Thank you. McQ”
While the site is commonly seen as a forum for police to discuss crime news and gossip, not all of its members are active-duty officers.
“If the person making the threat is identified, they will face the same action criminally” whether it’s an officer or a civilian, Vanore said.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey initiated the investigation, Vanore said. Bilal did not file a complaint.
Hats off to the Police Commissioner, for now, for taking the step to investigate this “threat” and let’s hope something comes of it. We have the best cyber law enforcement money can buy, so we can know to a 100% certainty, or at least that’s what Homeland Security tells us, who wrote the offending posts and from where. But this speaks to something I’ve said here all along, and which I picked up from a former police officer’s article that unless people in authority speak out against, AND punish officers who commit acts of violence or threaten acts of violence against citizens, nothing will change and the brutality will continue. There has to be zero tolerance towards police brutality, given the judicial system’s determination it did indeed occur. Police officers are not above the law, merely the enforcers of the law; their standard is no different from mine. Either obey it or face the consequences; it’s just that simple. It is NOT rocket science. I like how the city of Philadelphia blocked the offending message board from its computers in order to keep some people from posting on the forum while at work. The City should not be the editor of offensive comments by its employees against other employees. You can say whatever you want, but if it interferes with job place cohesion, not on my dime, seems to be the reasonable attitude of the city. I hope to post some of the more offensive comments here at some point if they can be found. Frankly I don’t care about racist remarks as long as they are not incediary, threatening violence as in the case of the ‘gang rape’ remark. Some sensitivities are a bit too hyper, in my opinion, but it appears the city of brotherly love is keeping a level head while dealing with a very un brotherly situation, and quite simply any inappropriate behaviour on the part of Philadelphia’s police should be dealt with severely and swiftly. I hope the police are listening.