In what looks like a case of trying to save face and soften some harsh realities, a number of edits made to Wikipedia pages regarding high-profile cases of deadly force used by the New York City Police Department have been traced back to computers at NYPD headquarters.
On several occasions, someone using computers with IP addresses traceable to New York City’s 1 Police Plaza has edited and even attempted to delete Wiki entries for Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, and Eric Garner, among others. Though it’s presently not known how many specific users are involved, it is known that 85 different IP addresses have edited Wiki pages from NYPD’s headquarters. The NYPD has 50,000 employees and more than 15,000 IP addresses.
Users can edit entries by either logging into their Wiki account or making an anonymous post. However, when someone posts anonymously, the site logs the IP address of the user and places it into a publicly accessible database of users’ edits. Though literally anyone can make and edit entries to the site, officials warn users with a “conflict of interest” against doing so as stated in their guidelines.
“COI [conflict of interest] editing involves contributing to Wikipedia to promote your own interests, including your business or financial interests, or those of your external relationships, such as with family, friends or employers. COI editing is strongly discouraged.”
Throughout the years, IP addresses at the NYPD have made edits to hundreds of non-police related entries as well. Entries on various random topics such as music bands, the Catholic church, and even gay sex can all be traced by to users at NYPD headquarters. However, a vast number of edits have also been made on entries having to do with NYPD misconduct.
Check out a few of the edits apparently made by NYPD:
The Eric Garner case:
– The word “chokehold” was twice replaced. Once to “chokehold or headlock,” and once to “respiratory distress.”
– The phrase “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was edited to read “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
– The description “push Garner’s face into the sidewalk” was altered to say “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.”
The Sean Bell Case:
– The sentence “one Latino and two African-American men were shot a total of fifty times” to “one Latino and two African-American men were shot at a total of fifty times”
– In attempts to altogether delete the entry “Sean Bell shooting incident” the user wrote on Wiki’s “Articles for deletion” page the following: “He [Bell] was in the news for about two months, and now no one except Al Sharpton cares anymore. The police shoot people every day, and times with a lot more than 50 bullets. This incident is more news than notable.”
On NYPD’s ‘Stop & Frisk’ policy:
– “The stop-and-frisk program of New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department to stop, question and, if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conduct a frisk of the person stopped.” was changed to “The stop-and-frisk program of New York City is a practice of the New York City Police Department by which a police officer who reasonably suspects a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor, stops and questions that person, and, if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conducts a frisk of the person stopped.”
– “if the circumstances of the stop warrant it, conducts a frisk of the person stopped” was changed to “if the officer reasonably suspects he or she is in danger of physical injury, frisks the person stopped for weapons.”
Police officials say they are currently reviewing the matter.