Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Philly Police Dept.'s Double Standard On Its Social Media Policy

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net 

"Fuck them racist ass crackers," Philadelphia Police Officer Kathy Caswell, who's black, wrote on Facebook under her real name. "We are doing more and better as a race then you guys."

On her Facebook page that identifies by her name, as well as being a Philly cop, Police Officer Michelle Dennard, who's black, shared a photo of a KKK rally, with the accompanying caption, "I don't know why WHITE PEOPLE are making such a big deal about wearing a mask in public. It's not like it bothered them before."

Police Officer Glenn Holmes, who's black and posts under his real name, has called President Trump a "motherfucker" on Facebook. He's also posted a giant cartoon middle finger along with the caption, "FUCK TRUMP; AND IF YOU LIKE TRUMP FUCK YOU TOO." " Holmes has also posted nude photos of Melania Trump, under the caption, "HEY YOU REPUBLICANS THIS IS YOUR FIRST LADY," and then he added his own comment, "Y'all must be really proud, huh?"

What do all three of these cops have in common? They all escaped the scrutiny of the Plain View Project that has resulted in the disciplining, suspension and/or firing of 72 Philadelphia cops for posting allegedly offensive and racist comments on social media; nor were these three cops ever disciplined by the Philadelphia Police Department for what they did. Even though it appears that all three cops blatantly violated the Philadelphia Police Department's official social media policy that prohibits "ethnic slurs, profanity, personal insults," as well as the display of "sexually explicit images." 

It's a double-standard that's prompted nine of the 72 disciplined, suspended and/or fired Philly cops to sue the city in federal court, saying the department violated their constitutional rights to free speech, and also falsely branded them as racists. In an interview, one of the cops who's suing the city, a decorated former member of the SWAT team who became a poster boy for the Plain View Project, tells his side of the story about how he was taken out by a lethal combo of "cancel culture" and "fake news."

The Philadelphia Police Department's Directive 6.10, on Social Media and Networking, says:

"Employees who are off-duty, and using privately owned property to engage in the personal use of social media, do not represent the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, or any official position maintained by either entity. Under such conditions, employees represent only themselves and their personal interests."

But even when cops are posting as private individuals, the police policy directive lists specific prohibitions about what they can't do:

"Employees are prohibited from using ethnic slurs, profanity, personal insults; material that is harassing, defamatory, fraudulent or discriminatory, or other content or communications that would not be acceptable in a city workplace under city or agency policy or practice."

And: "Employees are prohibited from displaying sexually explicit images, cartoons, jokes, messages or other material that wold be considered in violation of the City Policy Preventing Sexual Harassment in City Government."

In spite of what that police policy directive says, however, Police Officer Kathy Caswell, an officer in the 12th Police District, who was put on restricted duty pending an EEOC investigation, was allowed to retire a few months ago without any punishment. Her fellow cops threw a party for her at the district. 

Police Officer Michelle Dennard, who works in the 18th District, was investigated and put on restricted duty, but she recently returned to full duty, without any punishment from the department. 

And Police Officer Glenn Holmes, who was never investigated by the police department, is still on active duty in the 9th District, and still railing against President Trump on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit, filed July 8th in U.S. District Court on behalf of the nine suspended, disciplined and/or fired Philly cops states "the plaintiffs allege that the City of Philadelphia has adopted an arbitrary and double standard by selectively enforcing its polices against the Plaintiffs, singling them out based on their political views."

According to the 43-page complaint filed by Larry Crain, a lawyer from Brentwood, TN, the actions taken against the nine cops "constitutes arbitrary viewpoint discrimination. . . without a rational basis." The department violated the cops' constitutional rights, the lawsuit says, and "falsely maligned and effectively branded [them] as racists." 

The actions against the nine cops, Crain contends, also violates the Philadelphia Police Department's Directive 8.6 on Disciplinary Procedure, which says under Section 1.A, "The entire disciplinary procedure and outcomes shall be consistent and fair."

In the complaint, Crain writes that all nine plaintiffs are "highly decorated officers who have served with distinction . . . for many years." But the cops were "disciplined, suspended or terminated from the City of Philadelphia Police Department for exercising their free speech rights as guaranteed by the First Amendment and expressing their personal views on issues of inherent public interest."

As a result, Crain writes, the nine cops have been "black-listed and placed a 'Giglio List or Brady List' " that names cops who have "sustained incidents placing their credibility into question, thereby impairing their ability to be called as a witness in the prosecution of any arrests or criminal investigations conducted by them."

One of those plaintiffs, Christian Fenico, who's white, had a "near spotless record as an officer for 17 years," Crain writes, and most recently served as a member of the police department's SWAT team from 2015 to 2019. 

During his career, Fenico has received 23 awards and honors for meritorious service such as saving three lives, including a would-be jumper off a bridge, a six-year-old girl who was choking to death, and a fellow officer who was wounded in a gun fight. 

For saving the six-year-old's life, the police department awarded Fenico a Life Saving Award. And for saving the wounded fellow officer, Fenico received the Medal of Valor, the police department's highest award. He's also an expert marksman. 

But none of that mattered on June 1, 2019, when an article was posted on Buzzfeed News, under the headline, "Cops Across the U.S. Have Been Exposed Posting Racist and Violent Things On Facebook. Here's the Proof."

The Buzzfeed article was written in collaboration with Injustice Watch of Chicago, a self-described nonprofit newsroom dedicated to exposing "institutional failures that obstruct justice and equality." The article was based on an online database, the Plain View Project, launched by Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White, an operation dedicated to outing racist cops.

As far as Crain is concerned, the Buzzfeed story and Injustice Watch campaign amount to "a witch-hunt investigation into social media activity by police officers in eight major cities spanning several years."

"Police officers have 1st Amendment rights like anyone else, especially when the matter discussed is within public concern," Crain writes.

Fenico's demise began when got a letter from the two reporters writing the Buzzfeed story, Emily Hoerner and Rick Tulsky, seeking to discuss his Facebook posts. Fenico contacted the FOP and was advised not to respond. 

A week later, Captain Sekou Kinebrew, the commanding officer of the media relations office, told Fenico that Injustice Watch was a "cop-hating, left-wing" group that "badmouthed cops," according to the lawsuit. Kinebrew also told Fenico not to talk to the reporters, Crain writes.

In the lawsuit, Crain writes that Fenico subsequently met with Sgt. Joann Garvey, of the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau, and she told him that the Injustice Watch appeared to be on a "witch-hunt" or "fishing expedition," and was an "anti-cop" group. 

So Fenico decided not to contact the reporters.

When it was published, the Buzzfeed article stated that out of some 6,600 Philly cops, 327 had posted what Buzzfeed described as "troubling content:"

Out of 327 officers who posted troubling content, more than a third, 138 officers, appeared to have had one or more federal civil rights lawsuits filed against them," the Buzzfeed story said. And out "of that group, 99 ended in settlements or verdicts against them or the city.

The lead paragraph of the story was about an armed, would-be robber who left a liquor store after a clerk pulled a gun on him. The writers then mentioned a Philly cop who posted surveillance video of the attempted robbery on Facebook, under the comment: "Should have shot him."

The writers proceed to out Fenico as the commenter, even though at the time, he wasn't posting under his real name, nor was he identifying himself as a police officer.

Philadelphia Officer Christian Fenico, who appears on Facebook under the name Chris Joseph and posted the "should have shot him" comment in September 2013, has twice been accused of excessive and unprovoked force. In both cases, men claimed that he choked them. Both lawsuits ended in payments by the city to settle the claims.

In an email,  Fenico explained the "should have shot him" comment.

"The video showed a white, armed male put a gun in the face of a convenience store owner," Fenico wrote. "The owner in turn pulled his gun out resulting in a brief but tense standoff. Thankfully the robber just walked out."

"The media would have you believe I was speaking as a vigilante when in fact I was speaking as a trained SWAT officer," Fenico wrote, albeit anonymously. 

"This is a tactical thing, and we are taught this. If you are going to pull your gun out while a gun is in your face, you best use it," Fenico wrote. 

"The clerk surviving the situation was a stroke of luck," Fenico wrote. "But it's like driving home drunk. Just because you made it safely doesn't mean it was the right thing to do."

About those two civil lawsuits, Fenico said that the Buzzfeed story omitted some key details. In one lawsuit, where Fenico was accused of choking a man, at the time Fenico wrote, he was "protecting an abused woman from her drug-induced boyfriend beating her."

Buzzfeed and Injustice Watch "also failed to mention that same boyfriend had his nose broken days prior but tried to blame" me for it, Fenico wrote. "The other case mentioned was a point-of-gun carjacking that an unknown man tried intervening in by attempting to pull [me] off a suspect while making the arrest."

The Buzzfeed story continued:

In late 2013, Fenico shared an article from a now-defunct website that detailed examples of sensational events, whether real or not. The article, which seems to have been taken down, referenced a handcuffed teen whose face was injured after police used a Taser. "Who cares," he [Fenico] wrote, "kid and mom are scumbags. Good job police.”

The article Buzzfeed mentioned referred to a video, since been taken down, Fenico said. In the video, "You have a teenager and his mother," Fenico said. "The kid is going crazy and he's going after the cops. He also ignored repeated warnings from the cops, so he got tazed."

Both the kid and his mom were white, Fenico said, "which throws out the racist angle."

"I'm glad that the cops are safe," Fenico said. 

The Buzzfeed story continued:

In a post about refugees, he [Fenico] wrote, "Let them starve to death. I hate every last one of them."

Fenico responded that his comments weren't made in reference to the video but were piggybacking off the statement above mine referencing terrorism in Europe. Most especially just weeks after the Paris attacks where 130 people were killed and almost 400 wounded." 

Fenico didn't see a problem with what he wrote, because it was about terrorists, not refugees.

The Buzzfeed story continued:

"The city paid $110,000 to settle a case brought by a man who said Fenico came to his home responding to a call and then beat him, breaking his nose, and choking him to unconsciousness even after his partner tried to pull him away, saying, 'that’s enough,' the lawsuit said."

"That was the domestic disturbance, a physical altercation between an admitted drug-induced male and his girlfriend," Fenico said.

The Buzzfeed story continued:

Another man’s lawsuit described the trouble that ensued after the family called police to report that a driver had hit a family member’s car and then attempted to flee. Fenico, one of the officers who responded to the call, ended up in an argument during which Fenico pointed his gun at the man, threatened to shoot him, and punched and choked him until he lost consciousness, according to the lawsuit. The man received $5,000.

"It was a radio call for a carjacking, three black males with guns," Fenico recalled. "We show up and see one of them running. We chase and after him we got him on the ground and were trying to handcuff him, a guy comes over yelling at us to get off."

"I tell him to back up, I take my gun out. After all, we don't know where the other two males were. I pushed him into the car to get him away from me and my partner," Fenico said. In that kind of a situation, Fenico said, "you don't know who's who."

The man who was interfering in the arrest turned out to be a bystander, not one of the perps. Fenico said he talked to the guy after the incident, explained police procedures, and the guy wound up apologizing to him. 

On June 6, 2019, commanders in the Philadelphia Police Department held a meeting about the Buzzfeed article. During that meeting, according to the complaint filed by Crain, First Deputy Commissioner Myron Patterson "stated that Injustice Watch was going after what he termed 'right wing posts.' "

"When another commander asked about left-wing posts, Patterson replied, 'I'm not worried about left-wing posts, just the right wing. and God help you if I see any pro-life posts,' " the complaint states.

Fenico, however, believed he wasn't in any danger because his superiors had reassured him by saying, "Your posts weren't bad," and, "You didn't say anything racist."

After the commanders met, however, Officer Fenico got a phone call from Captain John Przepiorka, instructing him to surrender his firearm, and informing him that he was now on restricted duty.

On June 13, 2019, Mayor Kenney weighed in on the controversy. Did he stand up for the cops, or at least for due process? Nope. As usual, Kenney pandered to his Progressive followers, and he already had his mind made up about the fate of the accused cops.

Guilty as charged.

"Look, I'd like all of them gone," Kenney told Fox 29. "You post anything that vile and vicious, you should be gone."

On July 17, 2019, Fenico was called into his captain's office and terminated. His termination papers said he had been fired for conducting unbecoming, and neglect of duty.

In the termination papers, the department summarized the results of an internal investigation that concluded Fenico had "displayed a course of conduct, where no few than four times, you posted, shared and/or commented on video, photographs/pictures and articles, using racial slurs, profanity, dehumanizing, defamatory and/or discriminatorily language and/or language that condoned, glorified, or encouraged violence, and/or language that was insensitive and mocked individuals, due process, and the criminal justice system."

According to the termination papers, "Your posts and comments in question are devoid of any professional expectations and standards." The termination papers specifically quoted the police department's social media policy about cops being "prohibited from using ethnic slurs, profanity, personal insults."

"Moreover, as police personnel are necessarily held to a higher standard than general members of the public, the online activists of employees of the police department shall reflect such profession expectations and standards."

In the complaint, lawyer Crain says that all of Fenico's comments mentioned in the Buzzfeed story were taken out of context, and that Fenico was falsely accused of using racial slurs and profanity. As a result of getting branded in the media as a racist, Crain wrote, Fenico "has been unable to obtain unemployment benefits and is effectively barred from further employment in late enforcement."

"A simple Google search of Officer Fenico's name now lists him under a heading of 'racist cop' headlines."

"As a further consequence of his termination," Crain wrote, "Officer Fenico has been unable to obtain health insurance" to "treat multiple injuries he suffered while a police officer including: a broken right hand with plates and screws; four bulging discs in his lower back; a left shoulder with labral tears; and an umbilical hernia."

Other consequences of Fenico's unjust firing, Crain states in the complaint, are "feelings of hopelessness, embarrassment and humiliation, as well as anxiety and depression for which he has received, and continues to receive, medical and psychiatric treatment."

Crain said the department's actions against Fenico were unnecessary because he was exercising his First Amendment rights of free speech as a private citizen, and did no harm to the department. 

"Each of the comments posted by Officer Fenico which formed the basis for his termination were made in his personal capacity as a private citizen, and addressed matters of political, social or other concern to the community," Crain writes. Furthermore, Fenico's comments "did not cause any disruption with the department, nor did it negatively impact the ability of the city to maintain discipline and relationships in the workplace."

In the end, Fenico said, his 17 years of positive performance evaluations didn't mean a thing. Including his last five positive evaluations when he was a member of the SWAT team, and the evaluations came from a superior who's black. 

"All in all, anyone can be made out to be a horrible person if they cannot speak on their own behalf," Fenico said. "Especially, when the opposition is hellbent on destroying that person's good name through gross exaggeration, false light and omission."


  1. To Christian Fenico: As a tax-paying citizen of Philadelphia, and a truly grateful man, I thank you for your seemingly exemplar service and behavior as a Philadelphia Police Officer. Thank you for help in making my wife and daughter safe every time you hit the time clock, and probably some times off the clock, as well. It just kills me how the big-shot politicians in this once great city get away with feeding shit sandwiches to you and those of your ilk (Philadelphia Police). Wish I knew you to give you a box of golf balls or a case of beer or something to show gratitude. I'm not religious, but I'll hope and pray that you'll land on your feet. Keep the faith and good luck.

  2. In the Great Scheme of Sharing Reasoned Argument and Opinion this Posting serves to illustrate the Power of Persons of Authority to influence and Effect Change.

    Law Enforcement Officers who share inflammatory opinion and choose to identify themselves with those postings, risk their careers and potentially their lives, FOR WHAT???

    My Question, is the weight and power of an egotistical self righteous career Jurist on her death bed making incendiary and seditious opinion worthy of Iconic Stature when RBG knew she was inciting hate and mayhem??

    I look forward to a careful analysis of her ACLU Leftist Record in the days ahead. She will cause more trouble than warring tribes from either side of the Political Spectrum.

  3. Ralph. I'm guessing officers in the DA Office were spared in the Facebook fiasco. Megan Lynch and her husband have some ugly shit up also. Guess Rocks missed the post where they take a St. Patty's day pic with an Hispanic female officer and label her " Our McRican". There are others also.....

  4. The PPD does not give a rat’s ass about “reverse racism”. The department is completely liberal and they’re only concerned with what white officers post on social media. That’s a cold hard fact!

  5. How many times has this double standard been used to discipline officers? One of the names female officers has a history of screaming bias and she was not present and made her complaint out of context and hearsay. I am glad someone noticed her comments that show her true colors.

  6. Just heard Ralph on 1210am and I didnt even know bout this. After reading this article it seems like a big double standard. Ashame what they did to the swat guy. Saves 3 lives and fired for his opinion? Wow

  7. Maybe in a hundred years or so these racist will finally see what it feels like to be on the other side of unfair treatment, bias and unequal justice. Just a small taste of it is unbearable isn’t it?

  8. You know nothing about any of the people you are trying to call out.

    Officer Glenn Holmes was one of the kindest, funniest, selfless humans you would have ever had the good fortune of meting.

    He passed away yesterday and spent his life servicing the City of Philadelphia and it's citizens.

    You on the other hand are a wanna-be tough-guy, keyboard warrior.

    The man that passed away is a solid example of a decent human being. You, are hot garbage that is wasting oxygen the rest of us could be using.

  9. Nice. Appreciate the kind thoughts.

    You obviously have no problem with a ridiculous double standard here, right? I wasn't evaluating anybody as a human being, I was pointing out an obvious double standard.

    Your personal attack doesn't seem to address that issue.

  10. Not a personal attack. Truth about the kind of cowardly garbage human you are.

    You make statements anonymously behind a keyboard like you have anything to do with bettering society or humanity in general.

    This man however, he dedicated his life to serving others.


  11. You seem confused. I don't do anything anonymously, I sign my name to it. You, however, are the one hiding anonymously behind a keyboard.


Thoughtful commentary welcome. Trolling, harassing, and defaming not welcome. Consistent with 47 U.S.C. 230, we have the right to delete without warning any comments we believe are obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.