Nine officers from the Oakland Police Department have received suspensions ranging from between three and 25 days for “deeply offensive” social media posts deemed “racist and sexist, officials in the Bay Area city announced last week.
The disciplinary action comes following an investigation that began in January, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff’s office said in a statement released on Sept. 17. The officers range in rank from officer to lieutenant.
During the months-long process, investigators seized 140 work phones. The investigation showed that a former officer created an Instagram page shortly after he was fired for violating department policy.
According to the statement from the mayor’s office, the nine officers accessed inappropriate material from department-issued devices and engaged in conduct that “brings disrepute to OPD.”
The statement said, “Investigators scraped the content and online histories from all of those phones.” Oakland’s Community Police Review Agency and third-party investigators conducted the investigation.
“This broad and deep investigation revealed violations of OPD policy related to the offensive Instagram page, as well as several other unrelated violations,” the mayor’s office said. Some officers engaged in “sexual harassment or other conduct in violation of Oakland’s workplace standards.”
Officers will not be paid during the suspensions. Two of the nine have moved to jobs at other law enforcement agencies, which have been notified of the results of the investigation.
Oaklandside first uncovered the Instagram account under the handle @crimereductionteam in December 2020. The account shared memes about being a police officer and expressed disapproval about OPD policies intended to prevent police brutality.
The department said at the time that it was investigating the account and asked for those with information about it to contact the Internal Affairs Unit.
The account was removed back in January and is no longer accessible. However, Oaklandside captured screenshots of the account’s content, including an image that showed an internal email sent to officers last September warning that engaging with the page could “reflect poorly” on them.
One post appears to allude to officers declining to report one another’s use of force.
Another meme makes a reference to use of force monitoring within the OPD.
“Trying to remember how many times you punched the suspect in the face,” another post says.
Other posts directed racial slurs at protesters and cast a positive spin on police brutality against demonstrators.
The statement from the mayor’s office said some officers failed their duties by failing to report fellow officer misconduct, and that not all of the suspensions are related to the Instagram account.
In response to the outcome of the investigation, the department plans to strengthen existing policies around department-issued technology and the zero-tolerance racial policy forbidding any engagement with racist, extremist, or white supremacy groups. None of the officers involved have been publicly identified.
“Sexist and racist behaviors are far too prevalent in our culture and have no place in our public safety institutions,” Schaaf said. “I wholeheartedly and strongly condemn any behavior, including online communications, that supports or engages with sexist or racist tropes.”