Law Firm Ballard Spahr Hired By City of Philadelphia to Investigate Police Officers’ Racist Facebook Posts

Some Philadelphia police officers have been placed on desk duty. It remains unclear what punishment officers found to have made racist or insensitive posts will face.

What to Know

  • Ballard Spahr is one of Philadelphia largest law firms, counting former Mayor and Gov. Ed Rendell among its hundreds of attorneys.
  • More than 300 city cops were identified in an online database released by a website called The Plain View Project.
  • Police departments across the country have started investigations following the database's release.

One of Philadelphia's largest law firms has been hired by the city to investigate racist and insensitive Facebook posts that a recent study found were made by police officers.

Ballard Spahr, which counts former Mayor and Gov. Ed Rendell as a special counsel and has over 600 attorneys, will aid the Philadelphia Law Department, a spokeswoman for the firm said.

The city is investigating the social media posts of more than 300 police officers identified in a database made public June 1.

Robin Ireland, a spokeswoman for Ballard Spahr, confirmed that the firm has been hired by the city, but declined to go into details about its role in the investigation. She cited attorney-client privilege.

Andrew Richman, chief of staff for the Philadelphia Solicitor, said in a statement that "the Law Department considered law firms it has contracts with and asked a few firms if they could assist with conducting this time-sensitive analysis of the social media posts that are at issue. Ballard Spahr was the firm that best responded."

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It remains unclear what punishment — legally or professionally — that officers found to have made racist or insensitive posts will face.

Protests by city residents and public attrition by the mayor and police commissioner have followed the release of the national database compiled by The Plain View Project.

NBC10

The project's findings were first reported by Buzzfeed, and got picked up by news organizations and police departments across the country.

Officials told NBC10 last week that some of the officers identified in the database were assigned to desk duty by Commissioner Richard Ross as quickly as June 6.

"The thing that really angers me is that a vast overwhelming majority of our police officers are kind-hearted, decent people willing to put their lives on the line for fellow citizens," Mayor Jim Kenney said in an interview last week. "These knuckleheads paint them all with a terrible brush."

A church leader in Philadelphia, however, believes the issue is bigger than city leaders are willing to accept.

"Over 300 people, that is an incredible number," the Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia said. "You have to imagine that there are a considerable number of people who are like them, who hold the same beliefs who are just not crazy enough to put it on social media. This is a cultural problem within our department that has to be addressed."

The union president for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents non-supervisory officers, said in a statement that "we strongly condemn violence and racism in any form. The overwhelming majority of our 7,000 officers regularly act with integrity and professionalism."

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