Under the anonymity of the internet, a University of Colorado Boulder police officer trolled Reddit threads with racist and anti-homeless posts for years.
“Fucking gross ass tent towns, drugs and shit everywhere because they don’t want the police dealing with them,” seven-year veteran officer Drew Matthews wrote in the r/ProtectAndServe subreddit in a post three years ago. “I say call in fire with the police and just spray the hoses at them till they leave, even if they don’t get a shower out of it.”
But now a Boulder-based pro-housing community group confirmed who was behind the offensive posts, and Matthews has been placed on paid administrative leave. He’s also under internal investigation.
“The posts highlighted are offensive and reprehensible,” Colorado University Boulder Police Department said in a statement earlier this week.
Department Chief Doreen Jokerst said the allegations against Matthews have been referred to the city’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance as well as the department’s professional standards unit, news station CBS4 Denver reported Wednesday.
In a series of tweets, Safe Access for Everyone (SAFE), a Boulder organization that does charity work and advocates for the rights of unhoused residents in the city, shared more than a dozen screenshots of classist and racist posts from Matthews, known as Reddit user u/BocoRam18.
“They are like cockroaches, immune to everything now,” Matthews wrote on about homeless people in reply to a post about a vaccine requirement at a local theater in Boulder on the subreddit r/Boulder.
In reply to a photo of Black civil rights protesters being sprayed by hoses back in the ’60s, Matthews wrote, “Hey they are getting a bath at the minimum.”
“Let’s be honest with ourselves he contacted the dude for looking like a transient after citizens in the area requested extra patrols due to recent transient activity, not because the dude was Black,” he said under a Denver Post article about Zayd Atkinson, a Black Naropa University student who had a gun pulled on him by a cop while he was out cleaning trash from the streets near his residence. The officer was found to have violated department policy and ultimately resigned.
SAFE confirmed that Matthews was the person behind the Reddit account after finding the same photo of a beer can with a similar caption both on the Reddit account and on Matthews’ personal Facebook page, according to the organization.
The u/BocoRam18 account has since been deleted.
Homelessness is a major issue in the city of Boulder. During the pandemic, at a time when many other cities were expanding homelessness services and providing shelter, Boulder cut the number of shelter beds in half, according to Boulder Beat. Rather than providing housing, local police resorted to clearing local encampments, removing as many as 250 of them by the end of 2020, according to the Denver Post.
The city has also had its issues with policing and racism. In 2019, the Denver Post reported Black residents were as much as twice more likely to be arrested by police, even though they make up less than 2 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census.
The University of Colorado Boulder Police Department and Matthews did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.