California’s Oakland Police Department has taken up to 100 city-owned phones from officers on its Crime Reduction Team while it investigates complaints that some personnel were linked to a social media account with racist comments and criticisms of agency policies.
The move, first reported by KTVU, the Fox owned station in Oakland, is part of a probe to determine whether any current employees violated department policies, the city’s code of conduct, or any laws by “making comments or expressions supporting objectionable speech,” Oakland police said in a Jan. 8 statement.
The agency doesn’t allow members to engage in or support objectionable or offensive social media content or do anything that would erode public trust, whether on or off duty, Interim Police Chief Susan E. Manheimer said.
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“The trust of our community is our highest priority. We will not tolerate any breach of that trust from any member of our department,” Manheimer added.
A spokesperson for the department told Fox News on Thursday that it is currently conducting an “extensive internal investigation” into the claims.
“Members of our community and OPD staff alike are troubled by these allegations,” the spokesperson said. “This is why it’s so important to aggressively pursue a comprehensive and thorough professional investigation.”
Any employee found to have violated department policies will be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal, the agency said.
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KTVU reported that sources close to the department linked the seizure of the cell phones to previously reported allegations from the nonprofit news website, The Oaklandside, that an officer may have been running an Instagram account with the handle @crimereductionteam, though noting “no one has been identified so far.”
On the now-deleted account, which Oaklandside reviewed and took a screenshot of, the user posted memes about being a police officer — many of which included racist and sexist comments and mocked policies aimed at preventing police brutality.
One screenshot posted by The Oaklandside includes a viral meme of a little girl shrugging and is captioned: “Sgt.: Alright, who witnessed the use of force? Two full squads on scene.”
Another meme from the movie “The Hangover” shows actor Zach Galifianakis doing complicated math problems with the caption: “Trying to remember how many times you punched the suspect in the face.”
The Oaklandside also said it had obtained an internal email from September warning officers that engaging with “The Crime Reduction Team” account “could reflect poorly” on them.
In another statement condemning Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol, the department denounced comments by a former employee defending last week’s siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Trump.
“We wholly disavow his remarks,” the agency wrote, without naming the worker, whose employment with the city ended nearly six years ago. “We want to assure our community that those statements offend the morals and ethics of the women and men of our department.”
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Oakland Police Officers’ Association President Sgt. Barry Donelan told The East Bay Times that any officers showing support for violence have “no place in policing” and said he supports the investigation.