A Ross Township Police officer’s social-media activity is under investigation, and a personal Facebook page has been taken down after 90.5 WESA called township officials about posts that mocked protesters, including one that joked about running over them.
A page apparently belonging to Sgt. Joseph “JJ” Serowik reposted a series of memes, including a May 6 post that featured photos of protesters and a woman aiming a gun, superimposed with the question, “Why do conservatives own guns? Because Leftists block freeways, loot, throw Molotov cocktails, turn over cop cars, burn cities… and think this behavior is socially acceptable.”
A video reposted May 10, with the caption “too funny,” featured a short clip of a man driving a vehicle to the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” -- and then, as the song hits a drum solo, suddenly jolting as if rolling over a series of obstructions in the road. The video was labeled “When protesters [are] blocking the road but I got a job to do.”
Other posts include a photo of Oprah Winfrey with the caption "Cops once COVID is over ... You're getting pulled over, and you're getting pulled over[.] Everyone is getting pulled over".
Those images date no later than mid-May, weeks before nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Serowik did not return calls or emails for comment on Monday. He is not identified as a police officer on the page, but it was taken down after WESA asked Ross police about it late last week.
On Monday, the department said in an emailed statement that the posts “have been forwarded to the township labor solicitor for review as to any possible policy violations. … These posts by Sgt. JJ Serowik do not reflect his status as a township employee.”
“We support an environment of inclusiveness and work hard to promote that throughout our daily duties and interactions with the public,” the statement said. “Township employees are to maintain the highest level of professionalism and to be respectful to all.”
The statement said Serowik “has had interactions with protestors recently during his employment here. He assisted with blocking traffic at an intersection so that a pre-planned driving protest could pass safely through the area.” It also noted that Serowik, an Army veteran, “has been tasked on multiple deployments to work in promoting relations between the U.S. military and residents of the foreign host nations.”
Officials also confirmed that Serowik’s duties included community outreach, and that they were “not aware of any issues on him.”
But Vic Walczak, the legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said the posts add to his concerns that “Police departments have not been appropriately screening police officers in the hiring process. … [T]hey think it’s funny that you’re going to run over people with your large vehicle because they’re protesters. There’s nothing funny about that.”
The township’s personnel policies include a section on social media, which states employees are “prohibited from posting content that is inconsistent with their duties and obligations as an employee of the Township. For example, racist or sexist comments, comments insulting groups on the basis on national origin, residents or the general public, all tend to undermine the public trust and confidence required by yourself, and the Township.”
A department spokesman said Ross police received sensitivity training last year, and that Serowik attended. But Walczak said the value of such training depends on the officers' mindset.
“If you go in there with a mindset that this is a bunch of hooey, you’re not going to get anything out of that,” he said.