By BEN FINLEY / AP
July 26, 2019

(NORFOLK, Va.) — A historically black university in Virginia said Friday that it has fired nine of its police officers for sharing “misogynistic, racist and other offensive remarks via social media.”

Hampton University’s statement did not detail the remarks the officers made. But it said they were fired for “egregious violations of the university’s code of conduct.” The school employs 25 officers, according to the department’s website.

Hampton University Police Chief David Glover did not immediately respond to a phone message and email seeking comment on Friday.

WAVY TV reported that it had obtained a copy of a termination letter that one of the officers received. In it, Deputy Chief Ronald Davis said some officers and supervisors were engaged in a so-called “Meme War.”

“The ‘Meme Wars’ is described as a jovial release of photographs and captions designed to levy insults at others in the group as well as persons outside the group,” Davis wrote.

The police force for this majority black school of about 4,300 students near the Chesapeake Bay is the latest to become ensnared in controversy over officers’ social media postings.

Last week, the Philadelphia Police Department said it was suspending 13 officers with intent to fire them following an investigation into offensive and sometimes threatening Facebook posts. A few days before that, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said 62 current and eight former Border Patrol employees were under internal investigation following revelations of a secret Facebook group that mocked lawmakers and migrants.

In June, St. Louis pulled several police officers off the streets after they were accused of posting racist and anti-Muslim comments on social media.

Some of the revelations are being driven by a team of researchers who spent two years looking at the personal Facebook accounts of police officers from Arizona to Florida.

The Plain View Project found officers bashing immigrants and Muslims, promoting racist stereotypes, identifying with right-wing militia groups and, especially, glorifying police brutality. Police departments in at least five states began investigating after the researchers released a report in June.

Police departments often have social media policies that limit what officers may say online. Hampton University said in its statement that it has “zero tolerance” for such behavior and had conducted a full investigation.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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