New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) wants to know why an NYPD inspector who allegedly posted racist remarks on an online forum is still on the job.
Torres, who will be sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives next month, accused Deputy Inspector James Kobel of making the heinous comments last month in a scathing review of Thee Rant, a website frequented by NYPD officers.
On Wednesday, at a hearing of the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, Torres questioned Deputy NYPD Commissioner Ben Tucker about why the department hasn’t yet terminated Kobel and what it plans to do to deter such bias in the future.
Tucker described Thee Rant posts in question as “unequivocally unacceptable,” but said the department is still probing the matter.
“If it is unequivocally unacceptable, then when is the NYPD going to fire James Kobel?” Torres asked.
“There’s a few steps we have to take along the way, as we would any other investigation” Tucker responded. “We are awaiting some additional information ... under our disciplinary matrix, the penalty for this type of conduct ultimately it will be termination from the department.”
Torres’ report stemmed from an analysis of postings from a Rant user with the screen name Clouseau, who referred to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark as a “gap-tooth wildebeest,” to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as a “savage,” to former President Barack Obama as a “Muslim savage,” and to Mayor de Blasio’s son Dante as “brillohead.”
A probe conducted by the Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, which Torres heads, found that Clouseau is Kobel, who heads the NYPD’s equal opportunity hiring efforts.
Torres said Wednesday he intends to pursue the issue of explicit police bias more broadly once he formally begins his job in Congress. He said he plans to push the Department of Justice to weed out racism in law enforcement.
The New York Police Department’s internal affairs probe into Clouseau is nearing its conclusion, Tucker said, but he was less clear about whether the department would continue to investigate cops for making offensive remarks on Thee Rant.
“I cannot give you a definitive time limit. It certainly will not be months. I can’t tell you it’s going to be on January 1st,” he said of the Kobel probe. “It could be tomorrow.”
But when Torres asked about investigating and unmasking others who use the forum to spew hate, Tucker was less definitive.
“It hasn’t been a priority,” Tucker said. “It certainly is on our radar now. What we will do about it, and how we go about, down the road, thinking about how to monitor that site and what resources we’re going to dedicate to doing that is still an open question.”