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Plain View Project brings police under fire for ‘shameful’ web posts

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York Daily Record

YORK, Pa. — A Pennsylvania police officer accused of using excessive force in a lawsuit reportedly bragged on social media years earlier about punching a man, according to a new database of Facebook posts from law enforcement in the United States.

The database, Plain View Project, includes posts and comments from current and retired police officers from York as well as several other cities including Philadelphia, Dallas, St. Louis and Phoenix. The project is part of the journalism nonprofit Injustice Watch.

The database includes posts researchers believed could erode trust and confidence in law enforcement, ranging from “Death To Islam” memes to images related to Marvel Comics character The Punisher, who uses violence to fight crime.

In a post, York City Police Officer Galen Detweilerreportedly wrote on May 22, 2014: “Bucket list: Punch a guy so hard he poops himself….” The status update included a check mark at the end.

When a person commented about seeing the rest of his bucket list, Detweiler apparently replied, “It’s more of a work in progress list. When epic things happen in my life I add them to the list…”

“The York City Police Department has a social media policy which prohibits speech that negatively impacts the York City Police Department and the citizens of the City of York while still respecting officers’ First Amendment rights,” Public Information Officer Derek Hartman said in a statement.

“The City is internally investigating the posts published by the Plain View Project and will take disciplinary action if any is warranted.”

Detweiler previously worked for the Baltimore Police Department from 2012 to 2017, according to a video of his swearing-in ceremony.

In 2018, Melissa Penn filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg alleging, in part, that Detweiler used excessive force when he arrested her outside a York bar on July 3, 2017.

A 10-second video of the arrest went viral. Then-York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said Detweiler “did everything that was necessary to protect himself.” The lawsuit is pending.

Penn, 23, of York, pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and defiant trespass. She was ordered to spend two years on probation, with the first three months on house arrest.

Leticia Chavez-Freed, Penn’s attorney, said in a statement that posts will be used against police officers in lawsuits.

“I think it is shameful that these are the officers charged with serving and protecting the community,” Chavez-Freed said.

In a Facebook message, Detweiler wrote that he’s never heard of the Plain View Project.

Detweiler did not answer specific questions, including whether he wrote the post. He then apparently changed his privacy settings, so a reporter could no longer see information on his profile.

In Philadelphia, law enforcement referred to minorities as animals, cheered vigilante justice and shared pictures that were anti-Islam.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said he was “very troubled” by the report, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. District Attorney Larry Krasner told radio station WHYY that the posts could get police officers barred from testifying at trial. 

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In a statement, Kyle King, a spokesman for the York County District Attorney’s Office, said it takes the conduct of police officers both on-duty and off-duty seriously.

“It’s important that we have an opportunity to do our due diligence and review the website’s content in its entirety before rushing to make any additional statements,” King said.

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