There are good cops. There are bad cops. They are often the same cop, but not always. But there is a deeper problem embedded in cop culture, dealing with what they perceive as society’s “mutts,” and it causes cops to perceive their fellow Americans, neighbors, human beings, as something less than human.
This has been thrown around as “systemic racism,” but it’s a worthless phrase that contributes nothing to finding a solution. It reinforces, instead, the “all cops are bastards” view, which is not only wrong and simplistic, but furthers the divide between police and the public they exist to serve. Is the objective to improve the relationship between police and the public? Is the objective to remind police that we’re all citizens, humans, neighbors?
But then there’s a cop like Deputy Inspector James Francis Kobel. His command was to investigate workplace harassment at the NYPD. He wasn’t a very good choice.
The report, obtained by The Post, says that Deputy Inspector James Francis Kobel used the handle “Clouseau” to post “racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and homophobic sentiments” on the The Rant forums 500 times between the summer of 2019 and fall of this year.
The high-ranking cop even attacked his own in numerous messages, calling a pair of female cops of color “gutter sluts” and “f–king animals” and a Palestinian-American lieutenant a “goat-f–king Palestinian scum bag.”
Nice guy, right?
Kobel attacked local officials, such as Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, and national politicians, referring to President Obama as a “Muslim-savage,” Minnesota Congresswomen Ilhan Omar a “filthy animal” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “too much Chardonnay drinkin’, loose denture wearin’, no class havin’ t–t.”
Last December, he described Mayor Bill de Blasio’s son, Dante, as “brillohead.”
And while it’s true that, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, it wasn’t all that hard to figure out that this racist was a deputy inspector.
But like the bumbling “Pink Panther” inspector from whom Kobel got his handle, the NYPD cop’s ignorance was his own undoing. He left a trail of breadcrumbs that allowed investigators to piece together who was making the hateful comments.
The investigation connected Kobel to the account after through a series of specific personal and professional pieces of information, including the death of his mom, his proposal to his wife and his in-laws beach house.
This raises a series of questions, not the least of which is how someone this racist, this dumb, managed to climb to the heights of deputy inspector. Or why this cop, of all the cops, was tapped to head the NYPD’s Office of Equal Employment. Or how he managed to stay on the force for 30 years.
To the extent there is anything positive to see here, at least he had to hide behind a ‘nym to go on his racist rants, and didn’t feel sufficiently secure in his post to use his real name as he spewed this outrageously racist vitriol. Unfortunately, it took the New York City Council to investigate and identify him, which the NYPD not only failed to do, and not only kept him on the Blue Team, but elevated him to a position of power and placed him in the worst possible command.
No, all cops are not bastards. But the fact that racism remains an entrenched part of cop culture, accepted and acceptable, is why it’s so critically important to make the hard distinctions, stop simplistically conflating such a horrendous problem and deal with this dangerous cop cultural belief that the public are their enemy, and more directly, black people are subhuman and can be treated like animals.
Identify the problem if you’re serious about fixing it. Deputy Inspector James Francis Kobel was a huge problem, so how was it possible he not only remained on the force, was promoted to Deputy Inspector, and given the command of investigating harassment? Kobel is a bastard. Why did the NYPD not know this?