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NYPD Official Accused Of Racist And Anti-Semitic Posts

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A top official at the New York City Police Department has been relieved of his command. As Sally Herships reports, he stands accused of posting racist and anti-Semitic messages to an online forum used by police.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: For more than a year, a user, screen name Clouseau like in the "Pink Panther," posted scores of hate-filled messages about Black people, Puerto Ricans and Jews. One of the posts called former President Barack Obama a, quote, "Muslim savage," all of this on an unofficial message board for cops called The Rant. But according to a report released today from the city council, it was the job of this same official to fight workplace harassment.

RITCHIE TORRES: The most hateful person was put in charge of fighting hate in the New York City Police Department. I mean, that's the some of it.

HERSHIPS: Councilman Ritchie Torres led the investigation. He says the incident points to the casual bigotry of an old boys club and the complacency on the part of the NYPD.

TORRES: The NYPD knew of the existence of Law Enforcement Rant, knew that there were hundreds of officers who were spewing hatred and did nothing to uncover the identity of those officers.

HERSHIPS: When asked how to address this kind of problem, the NYPD responded with a statement explaining that Deputy Inspector James Kobel, the officer named in the report, has been placed on modified assignment while the investigation proceeds. Dr. Robert Kane is author of "Jammed Up: Bad Cops, Police Misconduct, And The New York City Police Department." He says to understand the police, you need to know their history.

ROBERT KANE: The first organized police forces in the United States were slave patrols, and so they were organized around the idea of capturing and controlling Black slaves.

HERSHIPS: Kane says, as a result, today, we've inherited some structural racism - stop and frisk or use of force, which tends to be used more against African Americans. One strategy to improve policing has been to hire from within the community that's being policed. Lou Reiter was deputy chief of police when he retired from the LAPD after 20 years. He says now he questions the strategy.

LOU REITER: I'm stepping back now and I'm saying once you become a police officer, once you go through the academy, it doesn't matter what color you are. You become blue.

HERSHIPS: A LinkedIn user by the name of James Kobel didn't respond to a message sent to him, but Kobel has reportedly denied being Clouseau.

Sally Herships, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.