Capital New York is reporting some disturbing findings.
Edits and even outright deletions to Wikipedia pages containing information about incidents involving Sean Bell, Eric Garner, and other victims have been traced back to IP addresses of 1 Police Plaza, the New York State Police Department headquarters.
In case you do not recognize the names listed above, they were both shot and killed by NYPD officers in separate occurrences.
As of now, there is no way to tell how many individuals were involved in the editing, since there are a large amount of computers on the NYPD network and 15,000 IP addresses attributed to that network. The NYPD has a staff of 50,000, including both officers and civilians.
Wikipedia is essentially built on the policy that users can make changes to any entry, either under a username or anonymously. If the user chooses to remain anonymous, Wikipedia logs his IP address and the edits the user has made become available in a public record.
However, it should be noted that their guidelines also include this statement: Wikipedia discourages users from making edits that might constitute a conflict of interest. COI [conflict of interest] editing involves contributing to Wikipedia to promote your own interests, including your business or financial interests, or those of your external relationships, such as with family, friends or employers. COI editing is strongly discouraged.”
All edits from the NYPD HQ were made anonymously, so Capital created a program to track anonymous changes made from any of the IP addresses registered to 1 Police Plaza.
Capital noted that, on December 3, 2014, mere hours after a grand jury ruled that Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted in the chokehold death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, the following changes were made to the Wikipedia page titled “Death of Eric Garner”:
“Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”
“[P]ush Garner’s face into the sidewalk” was changed to “push Garner’s head down into the sidewalk.”
“Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
The sentence, “Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them,” was added to the description of the incident.
Instances of the word “chokehold” were replaced twice, once to “chokehold or headlock,” and once to “respiratory distress.”
Sean Bell was killed on November 25, 2006, when police officers fired 50 times at him and two other unarmed men. An anonymous user on an NYPD IP address attempted to delete the “Sean Bell shooting incident” Wikipedia page nearly a year later, in April 2007.
This was the user’s reasoning for the attempt, which he or she wrote in Wikipedia’s “articles for deletion” section: “He [Bell] was in the news for about two months, and now no one except Al Sharpton cares anymore. The police shoot people every day, and times with a lot more than 50 bullets. This incident is more news than notable.”
Capital passed on their findings to the NYPD, and received this statement in an email from Detective Cheryl Crispin, a spokeswoman for the department: “The matter is under internal review.”
For a full list of the Wikipedia edits, head over to Capital New York.