New York and San Diego Police Departments Edit Wikipedia Entries on Alleged Police Brutality Cases

Sunday, March 22, 2015
(photo illustration: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Employees of at least two police departments have tried to make their fellow officers look better by editing the Wikipedia entries on police brutality in their agencies.


Notably, someone at New York Police Department (NYPD) headquarters edited the entry on Eric Garner, who died when placed in a chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, making numerous changes, such as:


  • “Garner raised both his arms in the air” was changed to “Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke.”
  • “Use of the chokehold has been prohibited” was changed to “Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited.”
  • Instances of the word “chokehold” were replaced twice, once to “chokehold or headlock,” and once to “respiratory distress.”


Kelly Weill of Capital New York also reported that someone at NYPD headquarters altered the entry relating to Sean Bell, an unarmed man shot to death by police officers, and that of Alexien Lien, who was tracked down by bikers and an undercover NYPD officer and beaten. In all, 85 IP addresses registered to NYPD headquarters were used to edit Wikipedia articles, Capital New York reported.


The NYPD has identified two officers who made edits, but said they’ll be lightly reprimanded for using city equipment for private business or face no sanctions at all.


Across the country in San Diego, a department employee has also altered Wikipedia entries to put a more police-friendly slant on articles. Daniel Weiss, listed as a dispatcher in San Diego police records, deleted whole sections of articles on brutality committed by members of his department using computer connections controlled by the city.


“Anything that was deleted was due to inaccuracies as stated in the comments,” Weiss told U-T San Diego. “Especially the ‘misconduct’ section, which had bad information and was not linked to the department in many circumstances.” Other changes were made anonymously, but Weiss claims not to have made those edits.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Edits to Wikipedia Pages on Bell, Garner, Diallo Traced to 1 Police Plaza (by Kelly Weill, Capital New York)

2 NYPD Officers Who Edited Wikipedia Pages Face Slap on Wrist (by Murray Weiss, DNA Info)

Eric Garner’s Wikipedia page Was Edited From an NYPD Computer, NYPD Admits (by Abby Ohlheiser, Washington Post)

Wikipedia Edits Came From Within SDPD (by Joel Hoffmann, U-T San Diego)


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