Union again urges HPD officers to stay alert on social media, rethinking and editing posts that could be used against them

Tom Kennedy, Editor

If you haven’t heard the name, here’s the ID: the Plain View Project.

Now, the objective of what the project wants to put out there “in plain view” is any public Facebook posts and comments from police officers that might be considered twisted remarks that could reflect a bias.

The record shows project personnel are putting notches on their supposed politically correct “gun.” Each notch represents a police officer caught in the act of being too candid or trustworthy on social media, especially in allegedly private posts.

The Badge & Gun took note of those notches, which include but are not limited to the following:

  • 72 Philadelphia police officers who allegedly made “more than 300 biased, sexist and/or biased social media posts.” Internal Affairs is investigating each officer and each comment.
  • A cop in Chicago could be fired after repeatedly posting insensitive comments on Facebook — including a cartoon of a boy urinating on the word “Allah” and a warning to Black Lives Matter activists to stay away from his family.
  • A rookie police officer in Detroit was fired “for allegedly posting a Snapchat photo of himself in uniform on Saturday with the caption ‘another night to Rangel (sic) up these zoo animals.’ It also came hours after the 27-year-old rookie met with the chief to discuss the situation with a union representative present.
  • More than two dozen Dallas police officers faced stern disciplinary measures after they were found to have posted bigoted or other offensive material to social media in violation of the department’s code of conduct, including mocking protesters who were pepper-sprayed. An internal investigation resulted in four officers immediately placed on administrative leave “because of the extreme nature of their posts.”
  • The U. S. Border Patrol has opened an investigation of officers who allegedly posted “twisted remarks about migrant deaths” as well as lewd comments about Latino lawmakers. The posts came from a closed Facebook group. The investigation comes when the Border Patrol is trying to increase its number of officers during the ongoing immigration problems.

In most of these incidents it must be emphasized that the officers thought they were involved in “private postings” affecting a closed group. That wasn’t the case.

HPOU President Joe Gamaldi continues to emphasize awareness of this ongoing monitoring of police officers using social media. “There is not a week that goes by that police officers aren’t getting in trouble, losing their jobs (Philadelphia, Dallas, Border Patrol, to name a few) for posting something on social media that they shouldn’t have.”

Gamaldi regularly stresses that the social media monitors who expose allegedly negative posts by law enforcement officers have no intention but to cause trouble for law enforcement agencies throughout the nation – including Houston.

So far these anti-law enforcement media have not mentioned any Houston police officers.

Gamaldi and the HPOU want to keep it that way. Most of the time private postings are not so private when a technically-savvy media group is involved.

“There are media groups and investigative journalism teams that have made it their mission to identify police officers on social media (yes, even if you use a fake name, they can find you), track IP addresses and gain access to private Facebook groups,” HPOU’s president said.

“Please keep in mind, private Facebook groups are NOT private. Just assume that anything said in any private Facebook group is public. Once these groups find you on social media, they begin tracking your comments, likes, shares, etc., to try to find something they can use against you.”

Gamaldi advised HPOU members to “read every post three times before you post it” in order to be extra cautious to take precautions that what you are saying will not be fodder for the news media, locally and around the nation.

“If you don’t want to see it on the cover of the newspaper or on the evening news, then I probably wouldn’t post it,” he said. “Don’t get suckered into back and forth arguments with people you don’t know, as that exchange could then be used against you at a later date.

Reflecting on the trend, Gamaldi said, “This is the new tactic to sully the reputation of our profession across the country. No one should be giving these people ammunition against us.

“We are 100 percent in control of what we post on social media and we all need to be careful that we don’t feed them exactly what they are looking for to hurt us.”