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Tuesday, January 12, 2021
N.Y.P.D. Concludes That Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel Wrote Racist Posts Under Pseudonym
The official, James F. Kobel, who will now face a departmental trial, filed for retirement as the inquiry was winding down.
After two months of investigation, police officials have concluded that a high-ranking officer responsible for combating workplace harassment in the New York Police Department wrote dozens of virulently racist posts about Black, Jewish and Hispanic people under a pseudonym on an online chat board favored by police officers.
The officer, Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel, filed his retirement papers late last week as the departmental inquiry was winding down. But the officials said on Monday that they still planned to bring administrative charges against him as soon as this month for falsely denying that he had written the offensive messages.
“The evidence is strong,” said one senior police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. “We have no doubt that it’s him.”
The downfall of Inspector Kobel, who oversaw the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Division, began over the summer when an investigator with the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division stumbled across a series of disturbingly racist posts on the Rant, an infamous chat board.
Even by the Rant’s vitriolic standards, the messages, written by a poster who called himself “Clouseau,” were particularly vicious and racist.
One referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Muslim savage.” Another labeled Dante de Blasio, the Black son of Mayor Bill de Blasio, as “brillohead.”
By October, the council’s oversight division, led by then-Councilman Ritchie Torres, managed to identify “Clouseau” as Inspector Kobel. In a painstaking bit of online sleuthing, the investigators matched up hints that “Clouseau” had left online about his life with details about the inspector’s personal and professional biographies that were publicly available.
On July 1, 2019, for example, “Clouseau” left a message describing how he joined the Police Department on June 30, 1992, recalling it as an “unbelievably hot” night. Using city payroll records, the investigators determined that Inspector Kobel had joined the force on that same date.
Then last January, “Clouseau” wrote that he had once worked “in Housing” under “JJ,” whom he referred to with an obscene slur for women. According to Inspector Kobel’s LinkedIn page, he too served in the department’s Housing Bureau — from 2012 to 2014, at a time when it was run by a female chief, Joanne Jaffe.
Inspector Kobel was placed on modified assignment. If he is convicted at his departmental trial, he could be fired. He will keep his pension unless he is convicted of a felony. He did not respond to a message seeking comment on Monday night.
Captain Chris Monahan, who heads the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents the inspector, defended him in a statement, saying he had served the city and the Police Department for 29 years.
“Given the current political climate and anti-police sentiment, D.I. Kobel did not see it as possible to get a fair administrative trial and decided to avail himself of the opportunity to file for retirement,” the statement said.
At the outset of the inquiry, conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau, Inspector Kobel voluntarily provided investigators with his personal cellphone and computer, and they believed the postings were not in keeping with his public persona and reputation.