Computers operating on the New York Police Department’s computer network located at its 1 Police Plaza headquarters in lower Manhattan have edited and have attempted to delete Wikipedia entries for several well-known victims of police brutality, including the deaths of Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo, a review by Capital New York has revealed.
The news website released its findings Friday after a review of the Internet Protocol addresses used to alter entries for Garner and Bell. Their review found that 85 addresses that appeared to be connected to computers inside NYPD precincts have made edits to Wikipedia pages, including several entries pertaining to events involving police.
“The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD spokeswoman, Det. Cheryl Crispin, wrote in an email to Capital after examples of the changes were presented to the NYPD.
The edits and changes were linked to the NYPD through a series of Internet Protocol addresses, or IP addresses, which can be publicly tracked by various websites. (Here, for example, is one website that shows a number of IP addresses registered to the NYPD). IP addresses can locate where a computer is when it connects to the Internet.
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.
There are more than 15,000 IP addresses registered to the NYPD, which employs 50,000 people, including uniformed officers and civilians. Notable Wikipedia activity was linked to about a dozen of those NYPD IP addresses.
On the day a Staten Island grand jury chose not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death, a user with an IP address traced to 1 Police Plaza made several edits to an entry titled “The Death of Eric Garner,” Capital reports.
The changes, many of which were edits that supported police narrative, were made by anonymous Wikipedia users, Capital reports. Using a computer program written to search for edits made on IP addresses registered to the police headquarters, Capital succeeded in rounding up at least a dozen NYPD addresses that made “notable” Wikipedia activity over the past 10 years.
In one case, the word “chokehold” was replaced by “respiratory distress” in the “Death of Eric Garner” Wikipedia page.
If you recall, Garner, a father of six, died during an exchange with an officer who placed him in an illegal chokehold in July 2014. The Capital review also revealed changes regarding the use of chokeholds by police officers that were traced to NYPD computers.
“Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
Other entry changes seem to paint a menacing or threatening picture of Garner, who was apprehended on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. During the arrest, Garner told officers multiple times that he could not breathe. Edits, however, suggest Garner’s mere size prompted the officers’ use of excessive force.
● “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”
● “[P]ush Garner’s face into the sidewalk” was changed to “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.”
● The sentence, “Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them,” was added to the description of the incident.
In another instance, Capital says a user with an NYPD IP address tried to have the entire entry about the death of Sean Bell, a man who was shot more than 50 times by police in Queens the night before his wedding in 2006, deleted.
“‘Delete’: “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,” the user wrote on Wikipedia’s internal “Articles for deletion” page.
In another entry dedicated to police brutality victim Amadou Diallo, a user on the 1 Police Plaza network changed a sentence about NYPD Officer Kenneth Boss to reflect that his involvement in an incident where an unarmed man was shot was justified because the man was “armed.”
And in yet another edit (made in 2008), a user deleted the entire “Allegations of police misconduct and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)” and “Other incidents” sections from the NYPD entry page.
NYPD IP addresses were also used to edit hundreds of other entries, including ones for Lauren Bacall, the band Chumbawumba, croissants and the alcoholic drink Four Loko, Capital reports.
To read the full list of edits made by users on the NYPD network, click here.