The Instagram account of a person who appears to be a New York police officer from the department’s 103rd precinct has angered protesters and Black Lives Matter advocates after a series of controversial posts were uncovered by activist Keegan Stephan this week.
The officer, whose last name is reportedly Langone, shared memes that featured racially charged comments about protesters and New York City residents—including one reference to “hood rats.” Langone’s account went private, and was subsequently deleted, on Tuesday after screenshots of the posts spread on Twitter.
A number of the posts focus on protesters in the city. In one Instagram post from an account called “off_duty_outfitters”—which apparently sells controversial, police-themed products—Langone is said to been seen sporting an anti-protest T-shirt that translates to “I [PLASTIC HANDCUFF] protestors.” The letters “ot” in “protestors” are emphasized, shorthand for “over time.”
Langone apparently re-grammed a meme from the account “police.lives.matter_” that showed a semi-automatic weapon being treated with a can of lubricant—with the handwritten label “Obama’s tears.” The post seemed to be a reference to President Barack Obama‘s recent speech on executive actions he plans to take to combat gun violence in the U.S., during which the president cried over the victims of mass shootings.
“He’s talking about a lot of the communities he works in as if he’s in the jungle or a sort of war zone,” Stephan told Gothamist. “That’s so typifying of these white police officers who live in Long Island and this is how he views the community he works in.”
The relationship between police and social media has a complicated history. In the past year, law enforcement officials in Maryland, Ohio, and Missouri have come under fire for their social media activity—and in all three cases, the officers’ allegedly shared racially insensitive or anti-protest memes on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
“The problem is not this dude,” Stephan said of Langone. “I don’t hate this guy. He also posts a lot of pictures with his wife, and he’s probably a nice guy to people he gets to know. But there’s an institutional problem.”
An NYPD representative declined to comment on whether disciplinary action had been taken against Langone. In an emailed statement to ATTN:, NYPD wrote:
“Members of the service utilizing personal social media sites are to exercise good judgment and demonstrate the same degree of professionalism expected of them while performing their official duties. Members of the service should be aware that activities on personal social media sites may be used against them to undermine their credibility as members of the Department, interfere with official police business, compromise ongoing investigations and affect their employment status with the Department.”
Queens Councilman Rory Lancman, whose district includes NYPD’s 103rd precinct, issued this statement in response to Gothamist’s story, saying that he was “deeply disturbed by the reprehensible Instagram posts of a police officer in the 103rd Precinct.”
“It’s completely unacceptable for someone who has sworn to protect our city to post messages advocating violence and referring to community members as ‘hood rats,'” Lancman said. “Such comments erode public confidence in our police and undermine our efforts to improve police-community relations. I urge the NYPD to take immediate disciplinary action and make it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated.”
Photo via khrawlings/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman