NYPD Facebook probe raises free speech question

By COLLEEN LONG | December 11, 2011 | 12:00 PM EST

In this Sept. 26, 2010 photo, police stand along the route of the West Indian-American Day Parade as parade participants make their way along Eastern Parkway in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The New York Police Department is investigating a Facebook group purported to be created by police officers entitled "No More West Indian Day Detail," rife with nasty, often racist comments about the annual parade in Brooklyn that has been marred by violence, including this year when two people were fatally shot. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York City police department is investigating whether police officers made offensive comments on a Facebook page devoted to the annual West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn.

Department officials said this week that at least 20 such comments made on the page may have come from police officers. Internal affairs detectives are interviewing officers under oath, and getting subpoenas for computer records. Departmental charges could be brought.

But the posts, however embarrassing or outrageous, also raise a First Amendment issue about whether officers should guard their online comments.