Secret police Facebook group littered with ‘deeply concerning’ homophobia, racism and misogyny
A private Facebook group for police officers was found littered with homophobia, racism and misogyny, a police commissioner in Queensland, Australia has confirmed.
The page, named Defend the Blue, had about 3,600 members across Australia including approximately 1,700 current and former Queensland police officers.
It included a litany of appalling comments, including posts suggesting women lie about domestic violence, posts claiming women are not capable of performing certain tasks, and numerous homophobic and racist slurs.
In an email to all serving officers on Monday (12 July), police commissioner Katarina Carroll announced an internal investigation, saying she’d seen posts about fellow officers and members of parliament which were “deeply concerning, nasty, defamatory, and quite frankly beggars belief“.
“I have become aware of inappropriate content on external social media pages linked to both current and former QPS members,” she said in the email, seen by the Australian.
“The content brought to my attention is incredibly concerning, disappointing and definitely does not reflect the values of our organisation or the majority of our people. Due to the nature and content of the posts, I must investigate and take any action appropriate to cease the continued publication of this highly inappropriate and offensive material.
“As QPS members, there is a significant risk when posting information on personal social media platforms that it could be perceived or misconstrued as information from an official source and/or sanctioned by the QPS. We also have obligations to adhere to the code of conduct when using these platforms in a personal capacity.”
Police group shut down with warning to ‘passive’ members
The force’s ethical standards unit has been tasked with investigating the group, its administrator and certain users – including those hiding behind pseudonyms. “If disciplinary action needs to be taken, it will be taken,” the commissioner warned.
“There’s a minority who say and do very unacceptable things,” she continued. “There’s racist comments, there’s homophobic comments and those are not in line with our values or the expectations of the community.”
She noted that a majority of members joined “for the right reasons,” but urged officers to consider the implications of their continued presence in Defend the Blue and other closed Facebook groups with similar content.
“There are many of you who are ‘passive’ members of these groups and I would ask you to reconsider your membership as your tacit support gives them a sense of legitimacy,” Carroll said.
ABC reports that at least 400 people have stopped following the page since Tuesday morning, and that some members have since deleted their comments on the page.
In a statement posted to the group on Monday, the administrator warned the page’s followers that Defend the Blue would be shut down within 24 hours.
“It has been brought to my attention that there may have been some comments made of late about the handling and the government’s level of support for the fallen brother Dave Masters,” the post read, referring to a senior constable who was killed in a hit and run.
“Some comments could or may not comply with the service’s code of conduct,” it admitted.
The administrator added that they hadn’t had time to review all comments made by members, but said they were “proud” of the group and the support it has given “officers in need”.
They specifically praised the support offered to “Zach and the Rolfe family,” referring to Northern Territory officer Zachary Rolfe, who is accused of murdering Indigenous teenager Kumanjayi Walker in 2019.
Deputy commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the force was disappointed “as an organisation” about the existence of the Facebook page, but refused to comment on whether it reflected a deeper cultural issue for the Queensland Police Service.
“What it says is that like any organisation we have challenges with some of our employees from time to time, and we need to address them,” he said.