ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has launched an Internal Affairs investigation of more than 400 racist, bigoted and violent Facebook posts by current and former St. Louis police officers; the black St. Louis police officers association has lodged formal department complaints against 17 of the officers; and a chorus of public officials, including the mayor, has condemned the inflammatory social media posts. Now, several additional officers involved in the posts have been identified.
All of this follow’s Sunday’s exclusive by The Northsider/The Southsider that looked deeply into a database of racist or violent police Facebook posts from officers in eight departments, including the St. Louis police.
The database was created and distributed by a Philadelphia-based group, The Plain View Project. The Project examined Facebook posts from 2,900 current and 600 former officers in the eight police departments for violent, bigoted or racist content. The database includes 416 Facebook posts by current or former St. Louis officers.
The posts, which demeaned African-Americans, Muslims and Hispanics and glorified police violence against protesters, drew a strong reaction.
St. Louis police spokeswoman Michelle Woodling told The Northsider/Southsider, “The information has been forwarded to our Internal Affairs Division, which is being reviewed for any violation of our policies.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson, in a statement to The Northsider/Southsider, said: “These posts are disturbing and unacceptable. This morning, the Internal Affairs Division launched an investigation. We expect professionalism out of every city employee. No exceptions.”
State Sen. Karla May, who represents half of the city in Missouri Senate District 4, told us: “Those of us who believe in justice can wait no longer. There is no excuse for an entity that is charged with the responsibility to protect and serve a people to disparage any demographic of that people.”
May continued, “It is shameful that our police force rejects any form of reform, and wants the responsibility of policing themselves. The question remains: What is our police force going to do to correct the hatred within their ranks?”
State Rep. Shamed Dogan, who represents the 98th House District around Ballwin and is the only African-American Republican in the Missouri Legislature, re-tweeted the Sunday Northsider/Southsider article, writing: “I agree with @ESOP_STL (the Ethical Society of Police, an organization for St. Louis African-American officers). This type of behavior from those who are sworn to serve and protect is disturbing and unacceptable.”
The Ethical Society of Police strongly condemned the posts, and on Monday, filed formal Internal Affairs complaints against 13 current St. Louis officers identified as having written the posts on their Facebook accounts.
Meanwhile, members of the Board of Aldermen joined the chorus of condemnation.
Alderwoman Annie Rice, representing the 8th Ward in the Shaw and Tower Grove East neighborhoods, blasted the officers in a statement. “How can we tell St. Louisans, especially our residents that are targets of these posts, to trust the police when these white supremacist beliefs are poisoning our police department?”
Alderwoman Megan Green, who represents the 15th Ward just south of Tower Grove Park, has frequently clashed with the city police union, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, and is one of those suing the city police department for its “illegal” use of tear gas and chemical sprays against demonstrators protesting the acquittal in 2017 of Officer Jason Stockley in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.
Green’s blistering statement on these latest Facebook posts read, in part, “Now that our police department has once again made national news for actions of our police department, I hope that action will be taken to eliminate white supremacists from the SLMPD (St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department).”
But Jeff Roorda, business manager and spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, responded with a wait-and-see attitude rather than his customary aggressive rhetoric, telling The Northsider/Southsider, “Until the source of the posts is verified and authenticated, we’re not going to comment on any speculation that any of these posts originated with police officers who we represent.”
Meanwhile, the identities of several more of the Facebook posters have been revealed:
Shane Coats, who posted a picture of Ferguson unrest in 2014 with the caption, “Ha, ha, ha! Here’s an idea. Bring your own medical services to the riot.” Coats also reportedly posted a story of Ferguson protesters working with Palestinians in 2015 with the caption, “God! Where’s a suicide bomber when you need one?”
And in 2015 Coats posted a story about a woman shot dead while protecting her infant with the caption,“Somehow this is gonna be whitey’s fault.” Coats is currently assigned to Police District 4.
Coats generated controversy in 2014 and 2015 by wearing a plastic bracelet that said “I am Darren Wilson” while on duty. Darren Wilson was the Ferguson police officer whose killing of Michael Brown in 2014 ignited the Ferguson unrest.
Roger Murphey, who posted about Stockley protesters in 2017 saying, “So now they’re protesting for a lying thug by breaking the law and Lyin’ Lyda (Mayor Lyda Krewson) and kimmy g (St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner) are backing them.” Murphey is a St. Louis police officer working in the Homicide Division.
Scott Weidler, who posted a meme making fun of Mexicans in 2017. Weidler is a St. Louis officer serving in Police District 4.
Michael Joseph, who posted several gun-rights posts, as well as a photo of a suspect (not from St. Louis) who had been beaten by police, and a 2013 post showing a police officer punching a suspect with the caption, “I’m going to serve and protect the s**t out of you.” He has been identified by police sources as St. Louis Officer Michael Joseph Calcaterra, who works in the Traffic Division.
All of the officers identified in the posts remain on duty while the Internal Affairs investigation proceeds.
To see the Plain View project’s website, go here.
To look at the specific posts associated by the study with St. Louis police officers, go here.