News broke in early June of a project that reviewed the Facebook accounts of thousands of police officers. The review resulted in an online database of posts from officers that included racially charged, misogynistic and Islamophobic content. According to the BuzzFeed article that broke the news about The Plain View Project, 328 Philadelphia police officers were identified as having allegedly posted problematic content.
Andrew Richman, chief of staff at the Philadelphia Law Department, said in an emailed statement, “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.”
A spokeswoman for Ballard Spahr confirmed that the firm is working with the city on the investigation, but declined to comment further.
The project, launched by Philadelphia lawyer Emily Baker-White, looked at thousands of posts from officers in eight police departments across the country, and revealed comments such as a Phoenix police officer allegedly posting, “Its a good day for a choke hold,” and a Philadelphia officer allegedly posting ”should have shot him” in response to a video where a liquor store clerk pulled a gun on a would-be robber, who then backed out of the store.
According to several attorneys, the Facebook posts might soon lead to new filings in the criminal and civil systems, with defendants citing the offensive content as evidence of everything from an arresting officer’s bias to a defendant having potentially had ineffective counsel.
“Anyone who’s got active cases is going through that database and seeing if [officers involved with] any of their defendants are in there,” Kevin Mincey of Mincey Fitzpatrick Ross, who handles both criminal and civil cases, said. “It’s very early right now, so everything’s on the table as far as we’re concerned. You got to keep an open mind on these to see if it affects the cases you have, or are coming in the door.”
Ballard Spahr is a Philadelphia-based law firm with more than 650 lawyers in 15 offices. City Solicitor Marcel Pratt worked at the firm before joining the Law Department in 2016.
Zack Needles contributed to this article.