The commanding officer of the NYPD’s workplace discrimination office has been relieved of his command and placed on modified duty as the department investigates allegations that he posted a slew of racist, sexist and homophobic comments on a message board for police officers, the department confirmed to CBS News. The investigation comes after the New York City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division released a report linking Deputy Inspector James Kobel to vulgar posts spanning more than a year.
The report alleges that Kobel is the person behind the screen name “Clouseau,” which posted more than 500 messages since July 2019 on the online message board “Law Enforcement Rant.”
In the posts cited in the report, Clouseau repeatedly used vulgar and offensive language to describe public officials and members of the public, including Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark and Representative Ilhan Omar. In one post, he called former president Barack Obama a “Muslim savage.”
He also targeted Eric Garner, a Black man who died in New York in 2014 after an officer put him in a chokehold, with multiple racist posts about him and his family.
Although the report did not conclusively prove that Kobel is Clouseau, it offered evidence showing similarities between Kobel and Clouseau. According to Clouseau’s posts and Kobel’s public records, both joined the force on the same day, held the rank of captain or higher in 2019, and worked in the NYPD Housing Bureau under former Chief Joanne Jaffe, the report said. They also proposed to their wives at the same time, live in the same county, and have fathers who died at the same age with similar NYPD service records.
Kobel, who the report said has worked at the NYPD for more than 28 years, has adamantly denied writing under the name Clouseau. He told The New York Times, which first reported the investigation, that, “I am unfamiliar with any of these posts … I’m unfamiliar with ‘Clouseau.’ I don’t post on the Rant.”
The head of the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents Kobel, told the Times that Kobel was likely framed by someone who was unhappy about the results of one of the many harassment investigations he’s conducted.
“Clearly, he has angered some people along the way,” said Captain Chris Monahan. “In any event, he looks forward to being fully exonerated when all the facts come out.”
While the NYPD told CBS News that the evidence against Kobel was “circumstantial,” the department said it nevertheless “merited immediate investigation by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau.” The statement said Kobel has cooperated with the investigation.
Richard Esposito, the department’s deputy commissioner of public information, told the Times that the investigation is not complete and that there was still substantial work to be done.
As the commanding officer of the NYPD’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, Kobel was responsible for promoting “a fair, safe, inclusive and accommodating work environment for all members of the [NYPD]” and “for ensuring [the NYPD’s] employees are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace…and promoting a fair and inclusive workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment,” according to the office’s website. The report said Kobel worked as the office’s second in command for at least four years before he was promoted in May.
Oversight and Investigations Committee Chair Ritchie Torres condemned the posted messages in a statement accompanying the report.
“The virulent bigotry of Deputy Inspector James Francis Kobel has no place in the NYPD, much less in the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity. The shocking nature of the misconduct revealed in this report would call for nothing less than termination,” Torres said in the statement Friday.
Torres and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the council will hold a public hearing on the matter in the coming weeks.
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