Saturday, July 18, 2009

Black Philadelphia police sue over message board

Suing over a message board called the lawyer is likely just throwing everything on the wall to see what sticks.

An association of black police officers has sued the Philadelphia Police Department in federal court for allowing its officers to post "blatantly racist . . . and offensive" content on a popular Web site devoted to law enforcement topics.

The suit, filed Wednesday, says, which bills itself as "the voice of the good guys," was founded by a Philadelphia police sergeant who uses the screen name "McQ" and "encourages the racially offensive conduct."

The Guardian Civic League also sued McQ and the 10-year-old Web site, a forum where officers discuss crime news, police gossip, current events and other topics, often in profane and humorous rants.

Guardian Civic League attorney Brian Mildenberg said that black officers had long reviled the site and that complaints had been been lodged with current and past police administrations to no avail.

Even the word domelights, which normally refers to the police lights on top of cruisers, has taken on an "insulting connotation" among black officers, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit cites several posts, including one showing slain white officers next to black suspects and the headline "Guns Don't Kill People, Dangerous Minorities Do."

Mildenberg said white officers post and moderate the forums while on duty and on department computers, creating "a racially hostile environment."

"It's the same thing as you can't hang racist material in the workplace," he said.

If he kept it to that he may have a case against any individual he can point to as using company computers for unauthorized use. But then he steps into it with PC nonsense that unless he gets the most liberal of judges wouldn't pass the speech test.

Mildenberg said there was no First Amendment protection on an employer's computer. "The employer owns your e-mail, your computer," he said.

Police policy also should prohibit officers from posting racist material on their own time, he said. Regulations require officers "to avoid engaging in racially offensive speech or conduct in public," according to the lawsuit.

The site is open to the public, and some posters have identified themselves as black officers and weighed in on racially charged discussions.

Other comments cited by Mildenberg were more reasoned but still racially sensitive.

The class-action suit, filed on behalf of 2,300 black Philadelphia police officers, asks the court to order the Police Department to ban officers from operating Domelights or posting racially insensitive material.

You shut down the site, someone else opens up another probably overseas, how will you police who is posting what on their own time? How will you track down those who are posting on their now? If you thought the atmosphere was highly charged now, wait till you start trying to hunt down officers that posted "offensive" posts.

This is highly unreasonable and mostly likely unlawful because then you are heading into freedom of speech and expression issues that can't be curtailed due to you being offended.

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