- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EXCLUSIVE:

U.S. Capitol Police officials are investigating allegations that several of the force’s officers participated in online groups that posted degrading references to women and exulted in behavior such as attending strip clubs and excessive drinking.

An anonymous complaint addressed to the department contained the names of nine purported Capitol Police officers who were said to belong to a public group on the social networking site Facebook called the “Make-it-Rain Foundation for Underprivileged Hoes.”

The group’s home page includes an excerpt about the escapades of NFL player Adam “Pacman” Jones in which the former Dallas Cowboy and Tennessee Titan approached an exotic dancer on stage and threw $1 bills into the air - an action known as “making it rain.”

“Please join our foundation’s mission by spreading the knowledge and pledging to help make it rain on the hoes in your life and the underprivileged hoes throughout the world,” the group’s page states. “If you are a hoe that is in need of rain, please look no further than the generous men gathered here to donate rain to your lives.”

The Facebook page says the group has about 1,750 members.

The Washington Times was able to access Facebook pages for three of the purported officers whose names appear in the complaint, which was addressed to the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. A copy of the complaint was sent to The Washington Times.

One of the page profiles - which have not been accessible on the Web site since The Times began making inquiries - depicted a man who identified himself as a Capitol Police officer. Another showed a photograph of a man in a Capitol Police uniform posing outside the Capitol, and a third page contained several candid photographs of a man in a Capitol Police T-shirt. The pages also contained personal information, such as members’ birth dates, cities of residence and photographs.

All three of the profiles identified their owners as members of the Make-it-Rain group.

One of the three men also listed himself as a member of the “He-Man Woman Hater’s Club” and founded a Facebook group called “Passed Out in Trashcans” - a three-member group geared toward “anyone else that has woken up from a long night of drinking to find themselves in the trashcan.”

Four other names listed in the anonymous complaint were found among a list of Make-it-Rain members, but The Times could not access the personal pages of those men. Two other names in the complaint were not found among listed members of the group.

A day after The Times attempted to contact the purported officers through their public Facebook profiles, the three profiles had been made inaccessible and six of the seven names had been removed from the list of members.

When reached by phone, one of the men confirmed an identifying characteristic of his Facebook page and said that he worked for the Capitol Police, but he denied knowing anything about the “Make-it-Rain” group. The other two men could not be reached for comment, and The Times could not confirm that any of the other men were Capitol Police officers.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said officials were unaware of officers’ memberships in the groups and could not confirm their identities.

However, she said the allegations had been forwarded to the force’s Office of Professional Responsibility to begin an inquiry. She said the department has a code of conduct that serves as a “set of professional standards” to govern officers both on and off the clock.

“It’s the policy of the department that all employees maintain the highest professional standards of conduct in both their private lives and in their official capacities to protect the integrity of the department,” Sgt. Schneider said.

The chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police bargaining unit that represents Capitol Police officers declined to comment on the issue.

Salley Collins, a spokeswoman for the Republican office of the House Administration Committee - which has oversight of the Capitol Police department through its subcommittee on Capitol security - said complaints regarding the officers were unsubstantiated pending the outcome of the internal review, but that the committee was monitoring the process.

“The committee is aware of the complaint and will monitor the department’s internal review of the matter,” she said.

The U.S. Capitol Police force is charged with protecting 535 lawmakers and a 47-square-block radius in and around the Capitol. Officers also have federal police authority throughout the United States.

The recent proliferation of online media and social networks has led to a host of once-private moments being made embarrassingly public, and the increased disclosures also have created a new surveillance mechanism for law enforcement agencies to use against criminals, and their own.

The New York Post reported in January that the New York Police Department began sifting through the Facebook and MySpace pages of would-be officers while the recruits looked on in an effort to eliminate undesirable candidates.

The practice helped officials in one instance remove from consideration a candidate who had a picture of himself jokingly pointing a gun at a friend.

In Washington state, a state patrol cadet reportedly was forced to resign in January after a complaint about content on his Facebook page that included vulgar language and a picture of himself drinking out of a pitcher of beer.

A Kennewick, Wash., police officer was fired in November after posting comments on his blog about his time at the police academy.

Yahoo Sports reported this month that NFL teams monitor social networking sites to gain information about draft prospects, even using the practice of “ghosting” - creating a fake profile to get added by a player and have access to his page - to help uncover questionable content.

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