Protesters gather at Philadelphia police headquarters to call for action against police officers who posted racist comments on Facebook

Of the 15 Philadelphia police officers targeted for dismissal over their racist or offensive Facebook posts, only four of them stuck around long enough to be actually fired.

The Philadelphia Police Department confirmed Tuesday to Billy Penn that 11 officers retired or resigned during the 30-day suspension that comes before formal termination. Many of their identities are now revealed for the first time.

The last big discussion on the firings came in September, when interim PPD Commissioner Christine Coulter told City Council that 9 of the 15 officers the department sought to terminate over their social media activity last year had left before it could happen. The Philadelphia Tribune later confirmed 11 officers had left by December.

Philadelphia was one of several U.S. cities rocked last summer by the publication of the Plain View Project, a trove of public Facebook posts and comments allegedly made by police officers across the country. The database, compiled by civilian advocates, contained posts and comments made by more than 330 active Philly police.

Under former Commissioner Richard Ross, Philadelphia retained an outside law firm to review the posts and comments. The full details of that internal investigation have not been released, and the PPD declined to identify the cops who were fired.

“Due to labor law provisions, we are unable to provide the names of the officers who were dismissed,” said police spokesperson Sekou Kinebrew.

Last year, the department dismissed in total more than 20 officers for various reasons, according to an internal document obtained by Billy Penn.

Only five people on the 2019 dismissal list also appeared in the Plain View Project database. Terminated between July and August, according to the document, they were:

  • Daniel Farrelly (PVP)
  • Christian Fenico (PVP)
  • Thomas Gack (PVP)
  • Brion Milligan (PVP)
  • Robert Oakes (PVP)

It’s unclear if that record includes anyone who resigned before their termination. PPD spokesperson Kinebrew would not confirm or deny that these firings came as a result of the social media probe. Fenico’s termination was previously reported by the Tribune.

In the wake of the scandal last summer, leaders at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents thousands of Philadelphia police, acknowledged that many posts were offensive, but called terminations “completely out of bounds.”

The union declined to comment on whether it would seek reinstatement for the four officers.

Max Marin (he/him) was Billy Penn's investigative reporter from 2018 to 2021. A graduate of Temple University, he has produced award-winning journalism on local politics, criminal justice, immigration...