Just in case you’d forgotten for a moment that there are many members of the New York Police Department who are petty, vituperative people who would go to great lengths to cover up their own and the department’s abuses of power, Capital New York broke the fascinating (if not wholly surprising) news today that a computer with an IP address located within 1 Police Plaza has been updating the Wikipedia pages of Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo, and Sean Bell, all of whom were unarmed and killed by members of the NYPD.
As Kelly Weill of Capital reports:
Computer users identified by Capital as working on the NYPD headquarters’ network have edited and attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police altercations, including entries for Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Capital identified 85 NYPD addresses that have edited Wikipedia, although it is unclear how many users were involved, as computers on the NYPD network can operate on the department’s range of IP addresses.
NYPD IP addresses have also been used to edit entries on stop-and-frisk, NYPD scandals, and prominent figures in the city’s political and police leadership.
An NYPD spokesperson told Capital that “the matter is under internal review,” so as of now, there’s no way of knowing who among the 50,000 people (officers and civilians) who have access to the NYPD’s 15,000 IP addresses is responsible, though Capital does report that “notable Wikipedia activity was linked to about a dozen of those NYPD IP addresses.” Edits to the page Death of Eric Garner include things like changing “Garner raised both his arms in the air” changed “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”
Capital notes that the NYPD Wiki-experts do not restrict themselves only to entries in which they have a vested interest, but have also made changes to articles on things like the Catholic Church and the band Chumbawumba of “Tubthumper” fame (or “fame,” I guess). Capital provides a full list of pages edited by NYPD IP addresses here, and notes that Wikipedia discourages the editing of pages that might provide a conflict of interest issue for the editor.
And yet! The NYPD has never been afraid of a little conflict of interest when it comes to defending one of their own. In fact, the NYPD has rarely been afraid of the repercussions of pretty much anything when it comes to defending one of their own, sometimes to the detriment of the city as a whole, but more often to the detriment of the individuals and families most affected by their actions. So even though this revelation might be the opposite of cognitive dissonance (has any news ever made more sense?), it is also such an important thing to have yet another reminder of the lengths to which some members of the NYPD will go in order to protect their own.
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