The NYPD has a serious problem. Either the commanding officer of its Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, James Kobel, has made more than 500 postings on a website, Law Enforcement Rant, known for racist, sexist and other offensive types of comments unbecoming a cop, or someone knowing a great deal about his work life and his family life has been impersonating him.

The NYPD did the right thing in placing the 28-year veteran on modified assignment early this month based on information yielded by both an Internal Affairs Bureau probe and one conducted by the City Council's Oversight and Investigations Committee.

The Council inquiry reported that someone posting under the name "Clouseau" had disclosed confidential information about colleagues on Law Enforcement Rant, accused cops by name of misconduct and detailed his own bad behavior on the job. It determined that "Clouseau" and Inspector Kobel shared biographical datas that included having joined the NYPD at the same time, having worked for the same Housing Bureau Chief during the same period, mothers who died on the same day, ex-cop fathers who died during the same year, and attendance at the same church.

It's possible that this is no coincidence: that "Clouseau" and Mr. Kobel are one and the same. But it's also possible that someone else had a strong-enough grudge against the Inspector for some reason and had access to details about his life and knowledge of police work that allowed that person to make a long string of damning posts while leaving behind enough incriminating clues to point to Mr. Kobel as the culprit.

If such a frame-up was committed by a fellow officer with a powerful malicious streak, the department has a problem on its hands. The problem is at least as great if Mr. Kobel is in fact the person behind the posts. 

If that were so, the NYPD's investigation would be just beginning. It would have to determine how someone capable of making the postings on a notorious website came to run the office that oversees enforcement and harassment complaints brought against members of the department for vreaching its commitment to equal-employment opportunities. 

The NYPD in its recent past faced accusations that some cops assigned to the sex-crimes unit were less than diligent in conducting investigations, the implication being that it had been something of a dumping ground. These are not the kind of assignments that should be given to cops either going through the motions or insensitive to the people they are supposed to serve. 

Brian Levin, an ex-NYPD officer who is now Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, told this newspaper's Richard Khavkine, "This kind of ranting really has a deleterious effect on the credibility of departments." If Inspector Kobel was actually the man behind  "Clouseau," he added, "His position made these alleged postings even more egregious."  

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