People using NYPD computers have made edits to — and even attempted to delete — Wikipedia pages describing cases in which the department's officers were accused of racial bias and brutality in the deaths of black men, according to a Capital New York report.
The publication discovered that these changes were linked to IP addresses connected to the NYPD.
These NYPD-linked users tweaked the language in hundreds of pages, including making changes to entries describing the NYPD-involved deaths of Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. They made deletions, additions, and word replacements that made the narratives appear more sympathetic to police.
Here are some examples of the changes Capital New York identified in the entry for Garner, a 43-year-old black Staten Island man whose July 17, 2014, chokehold death during a confrontation with an NYPD officer attracted national scrutiny about perceived racial bias and misuse of force, and protests when the officer who killed him was not indicted:
"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."
"Use of the chokehold has been prohibited" was changed to "Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited."
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.
Instances of the word "chokehold" were replaced twice, once to "chokehold or headlock," and once to "respiratory distress."
Users with NYPD IP addresses also edited entries on stop-and-frisk — a policy the department infamously implemented in a racially biased way.
Yes, Wikipedia is meant to be edited by the public, but the site's rules, Mediaite explained in its report on this topic, discourage users from making changes to pages that involve their own interests.
An NYPD spokesperson told Capital New York that the matter of the edited entries is "now under review."
Read the entire report at Capital New York.