A high-ranking official with the New York Police Department has been temporarily relieved of his command and placed on modified duty after a City Council investigation found evidence suggesting he was behind a multitude of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic comments on a public law enforcement message board.
Between July 2019 and September 2020, a user under the name of “Clouseau” routinely posted offensive messages on “Law Enforcement Rant” attacking Black people, Muslims, Hasidic Jewish community and others with extremely derogatory language, according to a draft report from the New York City Council Oversight and Investigations Division.
The “Rant” is a public internet messaging board where police officers often vent their job grievances.
“Clouseau” used disparaging language to refer to elected officials, including former President Barack Obama and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who is a Black woman, the report claimed.
He allegedly used slurs to describe two NYPD officers, who are women of color. And he insulted Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold, along with this mother, the report said.
He also attacked athletes in the NFL for kneeling in protest of police brutality, and perpetuated stereotypes about the Hasidic Jewish community as Covid-19 cases increased in New York in March.
City Council investigators assert that “Clouseau” appears to be NYPD Deputy Inspector James Francis Kobel – the commanding officer of the police department’s Office of Equal Employment and Opportunity, which is responsible for investigating employment and harassment claims.
Kobel has told The New York Times that he did not post on the “Rant” and was unfamiliar with “Clouseau.” CNN has reached out to him for comment.
Investigators said they matched up info with NYPD official
Investigators said they were able to identify “Clouseau” by matching information provided in the posts with publicly available personal information about Kobel.
Both “Clouseau” and Kobel joined the NYPD at the same time, held the rank of captain or higher in 2019 and were on the job in February 2020,” the report said. The authors also wrote that the two had served in the NYPD Housing Bureau under the same former chief. And details that “Clouseau” shared – such as when his parents died, where his in-laws live, where he proposed to his wife and how many parishioners of his church died in the 9/11 attacks – corresponded to information about Kobel.
“Clouseau’s” profile and posts appear to have been taken down.
The offensive and disturbing comments detailed in the report come as law enforcement departments around the nation face scrutiny for explicit and implicit racism within their ranks. A wave of killings at the hands of officers this year has ignited global condemnation against police brutality and systemic racism, sparking calls for sweeping reform and accountability.
A source with knowledge of the investigation shared the draft report with CNN, and a final version will be released publicly on Friday.
City officials call for his resignation
City Councilman and Congressman-elect Ritchie Torres, who oversaw the report, called for Kobel to resign.
“The virulent bigotry of Deputy Inspector James Kobel has no place in the NYPD, much less in the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity,” Torres said in a statement to CNN. “The shocking nature of his misconduct calls for nothing less than termination.”
Christopher Monahan, president of the NYPD Captains’ Endowment Association, said in a statement to CNN that Kobel is a “dedicated professional” who adamantly denies these allegations.
“Unfortunately, he has conducted thousands of internal investigations over the last several years,” Monahan said. “Clearly, he has angered some people along the way. In any event, he looks forward to being fully exonerated when all the facts come out.”
At a news conference Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea called the comments “utterly disgusting” and said the department interviewed Kobel the day it received the allegation. Shea added that Kobel was placed on modified assignment in the last 24 hours.
“Within the two weeks, where we are in the investigation now, we thought it was prudent to relieve the deputy inspector of his current assignment, pending the outcome,” Shea said. “That is a drastic step, but we thought it was the appropriate step due to the nature of his assignment, as well as the allegations and what we have learned thus far.”
Shea reiterated that the investigation is ongoing and that no one should draw conclusions regarding guilt or innocence.