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W-B Police Probe Fake Facebook Account Posing As A Police Officer

September 1, 2018

WILKES-BARRE — City police are investigating a fictitious Facebook account, the creator of which was posing as a city police officer.

An offensive meme was posted under a story on the Times Leader’s Facebook page that identified patrolman Rick Harding as the account holder.

Police Commander Joe Coffay said someone created a fictitious Facebook account using Harding’s name and photo. He said Harding does not have a Facebook account and has never had one, and the photo of Harding appearing on the Facebook account was taken from Harding’s LinkedIn account.

LinkedIn is a website used for career networking among individuals.

Coffay said the detective division was investigating the fictitious account to determine who created it. He said the account was created in August and the only “friends” linked to it were members of the media who were apparently duped by the account creator.

City police posted a report about the incident on the department Facebook page, noting the creator of a fictitious account had been posting comments “of a crude and insensitive nature” while posing as Harding.

Facebook was notified about the fictitious account.

By Friday, the fictitious account had been removed from Facebook.

Coffay said Friday that it had not yet been determined if the creator of the fictitious account violated any criminal statutes. Detectives were working to make that determination.

The meme reported to police showed a girl with an apparent developmental disability and used a slang term for the “R word.”

Representatives of local organizations that advocate for people with developmental disabilities said the meme was offensive.

“It is very offensive and it’s disrespectful to all of our friends with developmental disabilities,” said Maryclaire Kretsch, executive director of the Arc of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“We work hard to change such language in our society, and ensure people are given the respect they deserve. Activities like this … make that job more difficult. For someone to post something like this … is unacceptable,” Kretsch said.

Frank Bartoli, founder and executive director of NEPA Inclusive, said it’s “unfortunate that people don’t realize that the R word is as offensive as other words are to other groups of people.”

“It’s also unfortunate that people use the word as slang thinking it’s appropriate without realizing the inherent positive attributes people with disabilities bring to their community,” Bartoli said.

“Basically speaking, people post as a reaction without considering the harm they do to others. This isn’t a funny subject. This post is offensive to a group of people who want nothing more than to be accepted in their community,” he said.

Contact the writer:

smocarsky@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV

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