In September, Benjamin Moore, a Brooklyn attorney defending Tyrone Johnson from gun possession charges found “No More West Indian Day Detail,” a then-public Facebook group whose members were, presumably, actual New York City police officers venting about Brooklyn’s annual West Indian American Day Parade. The comments made by the group were vitriolic and openly racist. The group disappeared a few days after Moore encountered it, but he had already made a copy of the postings that went on for 70 pages.
Sgt. Dustin Edwards, the officer responsible for Tyrone Johnson’s arrest, belonged to the group. Subsequent journalistic fact-checking showed that group members’ names had a 60 percent match with those of registered police officers. After wielding his social media findings to acquit his client, Benjamin Moore gave a copy of them to the New York Times, arguing that the comments “raised broad questions about police attitudes.”
The disturbing commentary included statements like “Let them kill each other,” in reference to parade participants. With ominous echoes of last century’s and this one’s painful war history, one commenter declared: “I say have the parade one more year, and when they all gather drop a bomb and wipe them all out.” “Filth,” “savages,” “animals,” and “ghetto training,” were part of the documented hate speech.
Social media encourages casual, personal, and private conversations, but it really constitutes a new public record of everyday people’s lives and thoughts. The officers in question are now being investigated by the N.Y.P.D.’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
Above, women participate in the 2011 West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, NY.