Pittsburgh-area police are facing backlash after posts and comments from a private Facebook group – Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom – show officers criticizing peers who supported Black Lives Matter protesters, making transphobic posts and calling protesters “terrorists” and “thugs.”
The group, initially reported on by the Associated Press, featured 2,200 members, including about a dozen current and former police chiefs. Over the last year, more vocal members posted pro-Trump memes, complaints about “demoncrats” and concerns with coronavirus safety measures.
Notably, Tim Huschak, a corporal at the Borough of Lincoln Police Department, posted a screenshot in June from a 911 dispatcher’s Facebook page, where the dispatcher wrote that the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” is not equivelant to “Black Lives Matter.” On the group, Huschak questioned if people “should trust her with our lives???”
Lincoln Borough Police Chief Richard Bosco told the AP that Huschak couldn’t talk to the media.
“He understood the concerns and he deleted the post,” Bosco said. “There is and there needs to be a higher professional standard for police, especially when it comes to social media.”
In response to the post, West Mifflin Borough Police Department officer Tommy Trieu – who was caught on video restraining a 15-year-old Black girl during a school bus fight last year – then wrote that “multiple officers should call and report” the dispatcher’s post. Trieu himself was subject to activists demanding he be fired last year, but officials said he “did nothing wrong” and claimed he was hit by a student first. Trieu defended his statement about the dispatcher to the AP.
Additionally, West Mifflin Borough Police officer Joe Hoffman, who used the phrase “Black lies matter” in the group, complained about an officer who lay on his stomach on the steps of his station for eight minutes, referencing the death of George Floyd.
“If you are a law enforcement officer and you kneel or lie on the ground so easily over the false narrative of police brutality, you will one day be executed on your knees or your stomach without a fight by the same criminals that you are currently pandering to,” he wrote.
Others posted transphobic attacks against former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who pushed for social-distancing mandates and is now Biden’s assistant health secretary. Members of the group called Levine “it,” “he,” or “freak,” with one officer writing, “Someone needs to shoot this thing!!”
Pittsburgh’s current policy for social media accounts says may be disciplined for sharing “content involving discourteous or disrespectful remarks … pertaining to issues of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, and/or disability.” Officers are forbidden from “advocating harassment or violence.”