Council Probe Alleges NYPD Anti-Harassment Official Posted Bigoted Online Messages

Out gay City Councilmember Ritchie Torres chairs the Oversight and Investigations Committee, which spearheaded an investigation into deputy inspector James Francis Kobel.
New York City Council/ Jeff Reed

A leader of the NYPD’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity hid behind an online persona as he spewed racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, and other intolerant comments on a message board frequented by city cops, according to an investigation carried out by the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee.

Despite the explosive allegations — which were first reported by The New York Times and subsequently detailed in a City Council report — he remains employed by the police department, albeit on modified duty while NYPD investigates.

Deputy inspector James Francis Kobel, who was serving as commanding officer of the NYPD’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) within the department’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, allegedly used the pseudonym “Clouseau” to post more than 500 times on the board, known as “Law Enforcement Rant,” between July of last year and September of this year.

Police veteran accused of writing racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic posts online in report led by Ritchie Torres

Among the many examples, he allegedly described Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark as a “gap-tooth wildebeest” and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also of the Bronx, as a “savage.” Kobel also allegedly said two women on the police force were “gutter sl*ts” and “f**king animals” and “savages.”

According to the report, Kobel labeled the late Eric Garner — who died in 2014 after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold — as “a morbidly obese, diabetes havin’, high blood pressure ignorin’, asthma havin’, chicken wing eatin’, grape soda drinkin’, loosie sellin’ fat bastard.”

Kobel also laced several posts with homophobic rhetoric, the Council report alleges. When out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson sought an investigation into stop-and-frisk cases, “Clouseau” wrote, “Perhaps we should all take a step back from Stop, Question, and Maybe Frisk, until dear old Corey ends up the victim of a crime in one of the local bathhouses. You know what he’s looking for… Assault with a ‘Friendly Weapon.’”

The disgraced NYPD official’s allleged anti-LGBTQ rhetoric was also on display when he posted about a news article regarding whistleblower complaints in the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools.

“As long as the allegations are against Wilhelm and Chico Carranza, they go no where [sic],” Kobel allegedly wrote. “Unless of course some random sector finds Carranza going down on a one legged lesbian Eskimo who speaks with a lisp and identifies as a jelly fish.”

As if that were not enough, Kobel, who previously worked as the second in command of the EEO, described Councilmember Inez Barron, who is married to State Assemblymember Charles Barron, as a “lesbian mule wife,” the report said.

Furthermore, in March of this year, he allegedly said Hasidic New Yorkers would struggle to social distance in the coronavirus era because they have “a whole lot of incest going on.” He also suggested that high rates of COVID within that community would “reduce” the “number of people fraudulently claiming welfare benefits.”

“Clouseau” also spouted insensitive remarks about Russian individuals who live in his building, describing them as “animals” and “bottom feeding savages, only a couple of steps above the savages living in the Lincoln Houses,” a housing development in East Harlem.

The Times reported that the City Council first started looking into Kobel over the summer when an investigator working for Bronx Congressmember-Elect Ritchie Torres, the out gay City Council Oversight and Investigations Committee chair, read a story about the message board in New York Magazine. The investigator then started snooping around the message board and could not help but notice the outrageous rhetoric emerging from “Clouseau.”

The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau launched an investigation into the case in October in response to The Times’ inquiry and police investigators appeared to have corroborated some revealing information included in Kobel’s posts, including his engagement to his wife, general information about his family, and his mother and father’s death dates. Those investigators found further ties between “Clouseau” and Kobel when they obtained his personal cell phone and computer, which contained a saved version of the avatar he used on the message board.

While Kobel is facing an internal probe, Christopher Monohan, who heads up the Detectives Endowment Association, stood by Kobel, telling The Times, “Clearly, he has angered some people along the way.”

Following the release of the City Council’s 31-page report, published by Torres’ committee, Johnson vowed to move forward with a hearing.

“This is outrageous and inappropriate behavior by an NYPD official, and will not be tolerated,” Johnson said in a tweet on November 5. “The Council will hold a hearing on this matter. Thank you to Oversight and Investigations Chair Ritchie Torres for uncovering this reprehensible behavior.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet on November 6 that Kobel would be booted from the NYPD if the investigation confirms the allegations, saying, “This vile, racist language is an attack on every New Yorker and an insult to our city’s values. This is under investigation, and if it’s true, he will be fired. End of story.”

Torres, meanwhile, has seen more than enough.

“It is true,” Torres wrote on Twitter in response to the mayor. “James Kobel should be fired. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

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