Australia Victoria Police denounces 'inappropriate' memes posted to social account by officer accused of making white power gesture
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Victoria Police has expressed "extreme disappointment" in one of its officers for the second time in two days, after screenshots of his Facebook page displaying alt-right material were shared on social media.
The officer was pictured with his thumb and index finger making an 'OK' sign — a symbol frequently used by members of the far right — towards protesters at a climate rally in Melbourne this week.
Victoria Police acknowledged the photograph was legitimate, and initially said the officer had confirmed he made the symbol to ask if protesters were OK.
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But screenshots then emerged from a Facebook page appearing to belong to the officer, which displayed a number of memes circulated by the alt-right movement.
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In a subsequent statement on Saturday, police confirmed they were aware of both the 'OK' hand gesture incident and previous posts to the police officer's social media page, which has since been deleted.
"In relation to the hand gesture, we have reviewed body-worn camera footage of the incident and it's inconclusive," the statement said.
"The footage does not capture both sides of the interaction and is at times obscured by structures and people."
Police reiterated that the officer had advised he was "simply using the 'are you OK?' sign" to communicate with protesters.
"We have spoken extensively to the officer in question and he has advised the hand gesture was simply the 'are you OK' sign directed at two protesters who looked distressed," the statement said.
Why is the 'OK' symbol associated with the alt right?
The 'OK' sign has been co-opted by the far-right, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an international NGO that aims to "fight anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry", taking on a new significance after a 2017 4chan hoax.
Police investigate 'inappropriate memes' on officer's social media
For the second time in 24 hours Victoria Police have expressed their "extreme disappointment" at the behaviour of an officer.The same officer drew criticism for hand gestures he made during police clashes with protesters at the International Mining and Resources Conference in central Melbourne this week.
The prank saw members of the anonymous social network "falsely promote the gesture as a hate symbol, claiming the gesture represented the letters 'WP' for 'white power'," according to the ADL.
It became so successful that it morphed into "a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals".
The symbol's surge in popularity in turn led to "at least some white supremacists [abandoning] the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy" by 2019.
Alt right memes 'under no circumstances reflective of Victoria Police values'
The screenshots that Victoria Police confirmed had originated from the officer's personal Facebook page included an image of Wojak or "feels guy" being used as the officer's profile picture — that image was allegedly used in 2016 by Donald Trump supporters to mock the mentality of liberals.
They also included an image of a crying Pepe the Frog — a character that has been linked to the alt-right since 2016, when it was allegedly used in the US election to promote ideals of white nationalism.
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According to ABC13, the seven-year-old had wanted to become a police officer. Freeport police said that she was known as “Officer Arias 758.” She had a custom-made police officer’s uniform made for her February swearing-in ceremony, where she had to stand on a step ladder to take the oath. Her story made headlines around the world, including at the BBC, Global News, and CNN.“Her love, compassion, and most importantly, her magnanimous spirit, will live on for generations to come,” the Freeport police Facebook post read.
"In regards to his social media page, we are aware of a small number of posts which include inappropriate memes," Victoria Police said.
"Under no circumstances are these posts reflective of the values of Victoria Police."
The officer has been spoken to about the posts, and, the statement continued: "Although they were made more than 12 months ago, he is aware of our extreme disappointment.
"While officers are entitled to have personal social media accounts, we do not want or expect them to be including content which may offend members of the community."
Victoria Police said it was in the process of determining whether further action would be required.
It comes after anotherwith a slogan reading "EAD hippy" — with the letters EAD often used to mean "eat a dick" — on his body camera.
In a statement, Victoria Police confirmed the image was genuine, also saying it was "extremely disappointed" by that officer's actions.
Call for overhaul of regulation governing use of police body cameras in Victoria .
Victoria Police is in the firing line over the lack of regulation on the use of body cameras, with growing concerns about the potential for the misuse of the devices. The union representing police officers says police are not afraid of being recorded.The devices are worn by more than 8,000 Victorian police officers, and 11,000 are expected to be in service by the end of the year.
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