Looks Like NYPD Cop In Anti-Harassment Office Also Posted Racist Internet Rants. Oops!
A New York Police Department official is being investigated for possibly posting hundreds of racist and misogynist messages to a notorious bulletin board used by cops, the New York Times reports. Bad enough, but wait, there's more: The cop, Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel, had been the head of the NYPD's office for investigating and preventing harassment in the department, until he was removed from the job while the investigation goes forward. Kobel "adamantly denied that he had written the racist messages," and his defenders suggest maybe he's just the victim of an elaborate frame job.
When we first saw the story in the Times, we thought, "Huh, again?" Hadn't we seen this happen before, somebody in an anti-discrimination job who turned out to be a bigot? Turns out it wasn't quite that — we were thinking of that weird run of cases in the military where officers who ran programs to prevent sexual assault and harassment were charged or investigated for committing sexual assault or stalking. So that's a completely different example of people who probably shouldn't be in positions of authority.
There are actually two investigations into whether Kobel was the guy who posted nasty messages. The first, by the investigative arm of the New York City Council, got rolling during the summer, and was wrapped up in a draft report the Times "obtained." When Times reporters asked NYPD about the allegations in the report, the department's Internal Affairs Bureau launched its own investigation. Kobel denied the accusations to his superiors, but last week he was "relieved of his command of the Equal Employment Opportunity Division and placed on modified assignment" until the IAB investigation is finished.
The investigations involve messages posted to the Rant, a bulletin board used almost exclusively by current and former NYPD cops to complain about their jobs, frequently using obscene, racist language, because you know, they gotta blow off steam. We wrote about it earlier this year after the Huffington Post went looking for racist cops online and found a lot of racist cops online. Kobel is accused of posting to the Rant with the username "Clouseau," who you may recall was an inspector, too, you fewl.
And such nice things "Clouseau" wrote! Even for the Rant, the messages were pretty awful, attacking
Black people, Puerto Ricans, Hasidic Jews and others with an unbridled sense of animus.
He called the Bronx district attorney, Darcel D. Clark, who is Black, "a gap-toothed wildebeest" and referred to former President Barack Obama as a "Muslim savage."
Other messages from "Clouseau" made very funny jokes calling Rep. Ilhan Omar a "filthy animal" and mocking Mayor Bill de Blasio's son, who's Black, as a "brillohead." Racists are so creative! And when a City Council member who's gay called for an investigation of abusive police practices, "Clouseau" wrote
Perhaps we should all take a step back from Stop, Question, and Maybe Frisk, until dear old [city councilman] ends up the victim of a crime in one of the local bathhouses.
The Times carefully notes Kobel says it's not him:
"I am unfamiliar with any of these posts," he said in a brief interview. "I'm unfamiliar with 'Clouseau.' I don't post on the Rant."
He declined to comment further.
The City Council's Oversight and Investigations Division is overseen by Council Member Ritchie Torres. Last week, Torres and fellow New York Democrat Mondaire Jones became the first two Black gay men elected to Congress, so that's good timing. Torres told the Times that
his investigative team had compared posts from the Rant with public information and determined that Inspector Kobel and "Clouseau" share "a number of specific professional and personal characteristics."
Mr. Torres said he was "as confident as I could be" that the two people were the same man because the commonalities were "too coincidental to be a coincidence."
We have to say we're especially impressed by just how euphemistic the Times manages to be in one of the many examples of overlap between "Clouseau" and Kobel;
In January, "Clouseau" wrote that he had once worked "in Housing" under "JJ," whom he referred to with an obscenity often used to refer to women. According to Inspector Kobel's LinkedIn page, he too served in the department's Housing Bureau — from 2012 to 2014 at a time when it run by a female chief, Joanne Jaffe.
The story goes to some lengths to detail the many correlations the city investigators found between Kobel's life and career and the biographical details "Clouseau" mentioned. The story notes, "The Times has independently verified these and other connections."
But wait! What if it is all, as the real Inspector Clouseau would put it, an elaborate rheuse? According to an anonymous "police official," the IAB investigation has
considered the possibility that Inspector Kobel had been framed by someone who had purposely peppered the posts with details about his life — many, if not most, of which could be found through research on the internet.
However, the NYPD source also noted that there were other bits of evidence found on Kobel's phone and computer, which he had turned over to the investigators. The computer contained an email from the Rant that confirmed Kobel's username was "Clouseau," and the phone also had a copy of the same photo of the movie character used as "Clouseau's" avatar on the message board. Well, heck, that's not proof of anything! It's not like my own computer would suggest I'm secretly Twilight Sparkle ... but perhaps I've said too much.
The Times contacted Kobel by text one more time for comment, and he once again denied it, adding, "Nonetheless, despite my denial, it will likely end my career. [...] Where do I go to get my reputation back?"
We wish we had some advice. Perhaps he could, through bumbling and sheer luck, break up a French jewel smuggling ring?
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