PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Police Chief Jeri Williams promised a thorough investigation Tuesday after a group published a hoard of inflammatory social media posts by current police officers in Phoenix and several other cities.
"After looking at some of the more egregious posts, I did make a conscious choice and decision to put a number of employees on non-enforcement assignments just to make sure we can do a really deep dive into what we are looking at and what's going on,” Chief Williams said in an interview.
A group called the Plain View Project out of Philadelphia examined personal social media accounts for current and former police officers in eight cities, including Phoenix.
The group flagged 179 posts by current Phoenix officers which it says promoted racism, bigotry or violence.
In one case, Phoenix officer Reuben Carver wrote in 2011, “Its a good day for a choke hold."
A spokesman for the department said researchers brought the Carver case to their attention earlier this year.
"This particular inquiry was reviewed by our Professional Standards Bureau and did not rise to the level of misconduct on the part of the employee," said Sgt. Vince Lewis, adding that the department was now reviewing other posts for potential misconduct.
Williams declined to comment on specific cases during the interview on Tuesday.
Many of the posts were memes that mocked minorities or religious groups, including Muslims.
"I am embarrassed and disappointed to read these comments,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego in a statement. “There is no context in which these statements are acceptable. This city has absolutely no place for hate."
The president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association described the Plain View Project as an “anti-police organization” on a “hunt for negative spin.”
“People -- including cops -- say things they regret or that are unfortunate," said PLEA president Britt London in a statement. "But to judge an entire police department by a few social media posts is doing a grave disservice to the nearly 3,000 sworn officers who work the frontlines in Phoenix every day.”
Several of the posts involved viral content with political overtones.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio said, “much of this only rises to the level of ‘hate’ if you’re a liberal snowflake.”
“We need to judge people on their actions, understand that free speech is messy and stop trying to stifle and persecute people for having opinions we don't like," he added.
But law enforcement experts said Phoenix Police were correct to thoroughly investigate the posts.
“They should take these very seriously,” said Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Omaha.
Former Salt River Police Chief Stan Kephart said inflammatory posts by officers pose a threat to public confidence.
“It’s a very, very, very thin line we’re trying to cut here. You must balance the right of every police officer to exercise their constitutional rights against the good of the department,” he said.