Gretna, LA – A veteran Louisiana police officer is under internal investigation for posting a controversial online comment about U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).
“This vile idiot needs a round…….and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” Gretna Police Officer Charlie Rispoli wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday, along with a satirical article about the congresswoman.
“It must be hard living with the IQ of a Chiclet,” he added.
Ocasio-Cortez formerly worked as a New York bartender.
The 14-year veteran-of-the-force deleted the post on Friday, and appeared to have deactivated his Facebook account by Saturday, The Times-Picayune reported.
Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said that the post was “disturbing,” but that he does not believe the officer was actually making a threat against Ocasio-Cortez.
"Whether you agree or disagree with the message of these elected officials and how frustrated you may or may not get, this certainly is not the type of thing that a public servant should be posting," Chief Lawson said.
“I will tell you this: This will not go unchecked," the chief added. "I’m not going to take this lightly and this will be dealt with on our end. It’s not something we want someone that’s affiliated with our department to make these types of statements. That’s not going to happen."
Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said that it doesn’t matter if the veteran officer was making a credible threat or not – the post was a breach of public trust.
“The police are held to a higher standard of professionalism,” Goyeneche told The Times-Picayune. “Even if this is not actually advocating somebody shoot someone, it’s totally inappropriate for a law enforcement officer to make this poor attempt at humor. All he did was discredit law enforcement in general and his department in particular.”
Chief Lawson said that his department recently underwent social media and diversity trainings, and that the officers all received news reports about officers who were being investigated for comments they made online.
"We do everything that we can through this department to train our officers to try to make them understand that when they do something like this, the impact is greater than the average citizen," he explained.
Ameer Baraka, one of the founders of the group that taught the officers’ diversity class, said that Officer Rispoli’s comment was undoubtedly “threatening,” WDSU reported.
“I don’t feel safe knowing that I actually trained this guy,” Baraka told the news outlet. “Unfortunately, this is something really, really deep and menacing…and it definitely needs to be eradicated.”
“If not, you’re gonna constantly get these spikes of rage out of police officers,” he added.
Chief Lawson confirmed that an internal affairs investigation is underway, and said that any disciplinary measures that may be imposed will not be made public.
"I'm very surprised particularly all of the effort we put into training our officers not to put themselves or put this department into these types of situations,” the chief said.
Goyeneche said that police departments need to keep a record of such incidents “so you can track this and see trends,” The Times-Picayune reported.
“If there’s no record of this and the newspaper hadn’t discovered it, how would anyone know that this isn’t part of a pattern?” he asked. “this is one of your own…If you don’t use it as a teaching tool, I think you’re setting yourself up for future embarrassment.”
Officer Rispoli could not be reached for comment, The Times-Picayune reported.
Injustice Watch is a non-profit organization that considers itself the legacy of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law and Northwestern University’s Medill Watchdog program, according to its website.
The PVP’s goal was to identify thousands of Facebook posts made by police officers nationwide that might offend somebody.
Since its launch in the fall of 2017, PVP has been scouring the Internet for any hint of offense in any post or comment by any user they could identify as a police officer, active duty and retired.
Then they created a database of more than 5,000 Facebook posts they felt “could undermine public trust and confidence in police," according to their website.
PVP found numerous “cop humor” memes that they determined were offensive, but they also targeted posts sharing news that the researchers found offensive.
The standards by which the posts were selected weren’t clearly defined but a deep dive into the database by Blue Lives Matter showed they were as inclusive as possible.
Our research showed that PVP placed officers in their database for sharing articles with which the researchers disagreed, even if the original poster had made no remarks and nobody had commented.
PVP also mined posts that had snarky comments that could be construed as offensive by some readers.
The database allows you to click on any given post and see available information about not only the law enforcement officer who posted it, but also those officers who commented on it, including their badge number and salary.
Each page offers a button that allows horrified readers to share the details of the posts directly to social media.
As if the attempted public shaming of law enforcement officers nationwide wasn’t satisfying enough, Injustice Watch took PVP’s research a step further.
Injustice Watch cross-referenced the database of posts PVP found offensive against lists of officers who had police brutality or civil rights complaints against them, BuzzFeed reported.
They also looked for officers who have had one or more federal civil rights lawsuits and whose Facebook posts had appeared on PVP’s list.
In the many cases, the organization was able to match up offensive posts with numerous officers for whom cities had paid thousands of dollars in settlements.
The database included breakout sections for four major cities - Philadelphia, Dallas, St. Louis, and Phoenix - and three smaller towns including York, Pennsylvania, Twin Falls, Idaho, and Denison, Texas.
Injustice Watch contacted many of those police departments directly, initiating internal affairs investigations that will end up costing them in money and manpower by the time they’re finished.