Bad Reputation: Dispatches From the NYPD’s Anonymous Chat Room

A few angry cops are making officers everywhere look bad on this ugly online message board.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Apr 17, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. She is based in New York.

Whether it’s the bar or the watercooler, everyone needs a place to vent about his or her job. For a few members of the New York Police Department, that place is an online messaging board—and it doesn’t exactly offer the secrecy of a hushed conversation over a cocktail. Thee Rant, which was started by former police officer Ed Polstein in 1999, is rife with racist and offensive comments from anonymous posters believed to be current and former officers, highlighting the worst the NYPD has to offer.

In a post Thursday about the department’s new policy that allows Muslim women to be photographed in private by another woman rather than have to remove their hijab in front of men, critical comments from users included “Get out of my country” and “Don’t blame me, I voted for Palin.” In another post about the reserve police officer in Oklahoma who mistook his gun for his Taser and killed Eric Harris, a user replied, “Give him a medal!” Perhaps most disturbing were the comments on a post following the South Carolina shooting of Walter Scott as he ran away from officer Michael Slager, which included, “Eight shots in the back? A good shoot if you ask me,” and “If he would paid his child support instead of buying 20 in[ch] rims for his two-toned Benz, he wouldn’t have had an open warrant for his arrest.”

The Scott post also served as a sounding board for many apparent officers who were deeply angered by Slager’s actions. Much as the message board itself seems to elevate some of the ugliest and most hateful voices in the NYPD, an incident like the Scott shooting makes the whole department look bad. As one user wrote in reference to Slager, “Why should we care what this cop’s best hope is? He just singlehandedly sabotaged the entire profession of law enforcement.”

As ProPublica reported, the message board has been an ongoing sore spot for embarrassed NYPD officials. “We see it. It’s a problem,” Stephen Davis, chief spokesman for the NYPD, told ProPublica. Davis also said the users’ right to privacy limited the department’s ability to look into who was using the board and made it hard for the department to monitor users in general. But as the posts continue to flood in on a daily basis, the voices that are heard continue to make cops in New York—and nationwide—look bad.