Four San Jose Police Department officers are on administrative leave while their department investigates comments made in a private Facebook group reportedly for current and former San Jose officers, the department confirmed to CNN Monday.
The reportedly racist and anti-Muslim comments allegedly made by current and retired SJPD officers came to light when purported screenshots of the posts were shared online in an anonymous article posted on the website Medium by a person claiming to be “the partner of an active law enforcement officer in a San Francisco Bay Area police department.”
In the images posted with the Medium article, users made disparaging comments about Muslim women and one person changed their cover photo to a picture of a “Sharia Barbie” doll with a black eye wearing a hijab.
On a post about a Los Angeles Muslim woman’s hijab being pulled off by an officer, one person replied, “I say re-purpose the hijabs into nooses.”
The article also contained an image that it says is from a public post in which the user comments, “black lives really don’t matter.”
CNN has not been able to view the posts in question and has not identified any current or former officer involved.
San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia expressed outrage over the comments and warned that any officers who are found to have been involved could be fired.
“I have previously responded with discipline up to termination after an investigation into off duty online activity that runs counter to our standards of conduct,” Garcia said in a statement.
“While I have no control over what former employees post online, I can voice my outrage after hearing about these comments made online,” the police chief said. “Any current employee involved with bigoted activity online will promptly be investigated and held accountable to the fullest extent in my power. We have no place for this.”
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said he is pushing for an independent investigation of “all racially discriminatory conduct” by city police officers.
“I demand and expect a full investigation, and further expect that racist, anti-Muslim or menacing comments expressed by any current SJPD Officer will be met with termination,” Liccardo said.
Paul Kelly, the president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, condemned the group in a sharply worded statement, asserting the union would not represent officers accused of making the Facebook posts and would immediately move to expel all members who participated in the group.
“The news that I read today about members of our union and former members of our union participating in an online ring of hate makes me sick,” he said, speaking to the camera in a video posted on YouTube. “I want to be crystal clear: There is no place in our police department or our union for racists or bigots, or for those that enable them by not speaking up.”
Kelly said the union will not offer any financial support to officers found to have participated in the group.
“I’m saddened by this,” he said. “And will work every day to restore trust with our community. We can be and we are much better than this.”