Four police officers in Northern California have been placed on administrative leave while officials investigate a Facebook group in which members made bigoted and anti-Muslim comments.
The Facebook posts linked to a group of retired and active San Jose police officers were revealed Friday in an article posted on Medium.com, leading to swift condemnations by the police union, local officials and civil rights advocates, the East Bay Times reported.
The article, by an unnamed blogger who said they were the partner of a law enforcement officer in the San Francisco Bay Area, showed screen shots of what appears to be Facebook posts in which a member of the group called Black Lives Matter activists “domestic enemies.” The writer sought anonymity, citing a concern for his or her safety.
The article gave another example in which members of the Facebook group commented about a Muslim woman whose hijab was pulled off by a sheriff’s deputy in Ventura County. One suggested pulling the hijab over the woman’s face, and another suggested using hijabs as nooses.
Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area, said that sort of Islamophobic sentiment is concerning no matter who writes it, and is “even more terrifying” coming from police officers.
“How are we supposed to be able to call on these officers to protect our community when this is what they say when they feel as though they are around their peers?” Billoo said. “I worry that this is not just a few bad officers and this is not just a few bad posts. I’m concerned that other officers knew about these posts and looked the other way.”
Police Chief Eddie Garcia said he asked the FBI to assist in the investigation. Mayor Sam Liccardo said he expected any officer who made “racist, anti-Muslim or menacing comments” to be fired.
Liccardo expressed frustration that a white officer who was fired in 2016 for tweets criticizing Black Lives Matter demonstrations returned to the job after an independent arbitrator reversed the termination and forced the department to reinstate the officer.
“I will push for changes to a disciplinary process that allows unaccountable arbitrators to reverse termination decisions of the chief, and I will further push for independent investigation of all racially discriminatory conduct,” he said.