Deputy Inspector James Kobel, who was responsible for overseeing harassment claims within the NYPD as head of the Office of Equal Employment, was fired Wednesday following an investigation that he repeatedly posted racist, homophobic, and misogynistic comments to an anonymous online message board.
Kobel, who allegedly posted to the forum for law enforcement officers under the moniker “Clouseau,” was first investigated by the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division last fall. The NYPD then began its own internal investigation and concluded that Kobel was responsible for the posts, and on Wednesday said that Kobel had been terminated from the force.
The police department released a statement on Kobel’s firing: “The NYPD carried out a thorough investigation of this matter. His misconduct was so egregious and so contradicted the values of this department that ultimate accountability was essential.”
Kobel’s firing was first reported by The New York Times.
According to the City Council report released in November, investigators found that Kobel, under the name Clouseau, had described two female police officers of color as "f—cking animals” and a Palestinian-American Muslim lieutenant as a “goat-f**king Palestinian scum bag.”
Posts by Clouseau also denigrated Eric Garner as “a morbidly obese, diabetes havin’, high blood pressure ignorin’, asthma havin’, chicken wing eatin’, grape soda drinkin’, loosie sellin’ fat bastard,” according to the City Council investigation. The racist posts also targeted President Barack Obama, Representative Ilhan Omar, and even Mayor Bill de Blasio’s son, Dante, calling him a “brillohead.”
Before being elected to Congress, Representative Ritchie Torres led the City Council’s report on Kobel’s behavior as Oversight and Investigations Division chair. “I welcome the firing of James Kobel, who reflects a deeper problem that cannot be solved by the firing of one person,” Torres told Gothamist. “The NYPD needs to demonstrate to the public a real commitment to monitoring and rooting out bigotry in its own ranks. Had it not been for the City Council, the bigotry of James Kobel would have never been exposed and he would still be the Equal Employment Commanding Officer for America’s largest police department.”
Torres added, “The siege on the Capitol serves as a sobering reminder that white supremacist infiltration into law enforcement is a crisis that cannot be ignored—not here in NYC nor anywhere in the United States. Policing the police is needed now more than ever.”
Kobel has maintained his innocence, and his union defended him on Wednesday night.
"Deputy inspector James Kobel served the NYPD faithfully for 28 years, and enjoyed an unblemished record throughout his career,” said Captain Chris Monahan, president of the Captains Endowment Association, in a statement. “Unfortunately, he was already tried and convicted in the court of public opinion — he chose to file for retirement and move on with his life but the Department sought to dismiss him instead."
Last month, pending the NYPD’s internal investigation, police leaders suspended Kobel without pay. Kobel then filed for retirement. Though he was ultimately terminated, Kobel will still receive his pension. According to New York City’s administrative code, police officers who attain at least 20 years of service in the retirement system are entitled to receive the benefits.
Listen to Yasmeen Khan discuss Kobel's firing on WNYC:
According to publicly available data, Kobel was paid $158,693 in salary, plus nearly $20,000 in other pay, in 2018. Two years later, in 2020, his salary was $180,327 with more than $8,500 in additional pay. Pensions for officers with at least 20 years on the job are equivalent to half of the average of their last three years of annual take-home pay and overtime.
Southeast Queens Council Member Adrienne Adams, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said on Wednesday night that she wants changes to the NYPD's pension policies.
"I am pleased that the firing of former NYPD Deputy Inspector James Kobel has finally come to fruition," Adams said in a statement. "However, the fact that he will still get a full pension due to his 20-year vested status on the force is a true testament of the need for immediate police reform, of which as Chair of the Public Safety Committee I am completely committed to."