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LEO's, what's your take on this?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Preacherman, Jul 12, 2003.

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  1. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

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    From the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/12/n...00&en=f58b93fbf29e6015&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE):

    A Web Site Causes Unease in Police
    By ADAM LIPTAK

    William Sheehan does not like the police. He expresses his views about what he calls police corruption in Washington State on his Web site, where he also posts lists of police officers' addresses, home phone numbers and Social Security numbers.

    State officials say those postings expose officers and their families to danger and invite identity theft. But neither litigation nor legislation has stopped Mr. Sheehan, who promises to expand his site to include every police and corrections officer in the state by the end of the year.

    Mr. Sheehan says he obtains the information lawfully, from voter registration, property, motor vehicle and other official records. But his provocative use of personal data raises questions about how the law should address the dissemination of accurate, publicly available information that is selected and made accessible in a way that may facilitate the invasion of privacy, computer crime, even violence.

    Larry Erickson, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, says the organization's members are disturbed by Mr. Sheehan's site.

    "Police officers go out at night," Mr. Erickson said, "they make people mad, and they leave their families behind."

    The law generally draws no distinction between information that is nominally public but hard to obtain and information that can be fetched with an Internet search engine and a few keystrokes. The dispute over Mr. Sheehan's site is similar to a debate that has been heatedly taken up around the nation, about whether court records that are public in paper form should be freely available on the Internet.

    In 1989, in a case not involving computer technology, the Supreme Court did allow the government to refuse journalists' Freedom of Information Act request for paper copies of information it had compiled from arrest and conviction records available in scattered public files. The court cited the "practical obscurity" of the original records.

    But once accurate information is in private hands like Mr. Sheehan's, the courts have been extremely reluctant to interfere with its dissemination.

    Mr. Sheehan, a 41-year-old computer engineer in Mill Creek, Wash., near Seattle, says his postings hold the police accountable, by facilitating picketing, the serving of legal papers and research into officers' criminal histories. His site collects news articles and court papers about what he describes as inadequate and insincere police investigations, and about police officers who have themselves run afoul of the law.

    His low opinion of the police has its roots, Mr. Sheehan says, in a 1998 dispute with the Police Department of Kirkland, Wash., over whether he lied in providing an alibi for a friend charged with domestic violence. Mr. Sheehan was found guilty of making a false statement and harassing a police officer and was sentenced to six months in jail, but served no time: the convictions were overturned.

    He started his Web site in the spring of 2001. There are other sites focused on accusations of police abuse, he said, "but they stop short of listing addresses."

    Yet if his site goes farther than others, Mr. Sheehan says, still it is not too far. "There is not a single incident," he said, "where a police officer has been harassed as a result of police-officer information being on the Internet."

    Last year, in response to a complaint by the Kirkland police about Mr. Sheehan's site, the Washington Legislature enacted a law prohibiting the dissemination of the home addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and Social Security numbers of law enforcement, corrections and court personnel if it was meant "to harm or intimidate."

    As a result, Mr. Sheehan, who had taken delight in bringing his project to the attention of local police departments, removed those pieces of information from his site. But he put them back in May, when a federal judge, deciding on a challenge brought by Mr. Sheehan himself, struck down the law as unconstitutional.

    The ruling, by John C. Coughenour, chief judge of the Federal District Court in Seattle, said Mr. Sheehan's site was "analytically indistinguishable from a newspaper."

    "There is cause for concern," Judge Coughenour wrote, "when the Legislature enacts a statute proscribing a type of political speech in a concerted effort to silence particular speakers."

    The state government, he continued, "boldly asserts the broad right to outlaw any speech — whether it be anti-Semitic, anti-choice, radical religious, or critical of police — so long as a jury of one's peers concludes that the speaker subjectively intends to intimidate others with that speech."

    Bruce E. H. Johnson, a Seattle lawyer specializing in First Amendment issues, said Judge Coughenour was correct in striking down the statute because it treated identical publicly available information differently depending on the authorities' perception of the intent of the person who disseminated it.

    "It forces local prosecutors to become thought police," Mr. Johnson said.

    Elena Garella, Mr. Sheehan's lawyer, said there was one principle at the heart of the case.

    "Once the cat is out of the bag," she said, "the government has no business censoring information or punishing people who disseminate it."

    Fred Olson, a spokesman for the state attorney general, Christine O. Gregoire, said the state would not appeal Judge Coughenour's decision.

    "Our attorneys reviewed the decision and the case law," Mr. Olson said, "and they just felt there was very, very little likelihood that we would prevail on appeal. Our resources are much better used to find a legislative solution."

    But Bill Finkbeiner, a state senator who was the main sponsor of the law that was struck down, said the judge's opinion left little room for a legislative repair. He said he was frustrated.

    "This isn't just bad for police officers and corrections employees," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "It really doesn't bode well for anybody. Access to personal information changes when that information is put in electronic form."

    Mr. Sheehan says one sort of data he has posted has given him pause.

    "I'll be honest and say I do have a quandary over the Social Security numbers," he said. "I'm going to publish them because that's how I got the rest of my information, and I want to let people verify my data. But our state government shouldn't be releasing that data."

    Lt. Rex Caldwell, a spokesman for the Police Department in Kirkland, said his colleagues there were resigned to Mr. Sheehan's site, and added that much of the information posted on it was out of date.

    When the matter first came up, "people were extremely unhappy about it," Lieutenant Caldwell said. "Now it's more of an annoyance than anything else. The official line from the chief is that we're still concerned. At the same time, everyone's greatest fear, of people using this to track them down, has not materialized."

    Nor is there any indication that the site has led to identity theft, he said.

    Brightening, Lieutenant Caldwell said some officers even welcomed the posting of their home addresses, if that encouraged Mr. Sheehan to visit.

    "If he wants to drop by the house," Lieutenant Caldwell said, "the police officers would be more than happy to welcome him. We're all armed and trained."
     
  2. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    As to the site itself, it's his right.

    I strongly object to his facilitating identity theft by giving away the SS #s. I strongly object to his placing the families of LEOs at risk by publishing the home addresses.

    Irresponsible.

    Art
     
  3. HBK

    HBK member

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    I'm not an LEO, but that is borderline stupid. No way should LEO's families be made vunerable like that. Most policeman are giving as big a service as our military. They do a job that is inherently dangerous, for very little pay, to attempt to keep the community safe. They are not responsible for the safety of individual citizen, as that responsibility rests with each individual, but they still risk there lives every day as good battling evil. It is wrong to put them further at risk. The guy should have his ??? kicked.
     
  4. TheeBadOne

    TheeBadOne Member

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    Nemo sine vitio est
  5. LawDog

    LawDog Moderator Emeritus cum Laude

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    Personal responsibility.

    Mr. Sheehan should be made aware he will be criminally prosecuted as a co-defendant should any crimes be carried out against anyone or any family member listed on his web-site.

    My personal belief is that the burden of responsibility should be on him to prove that criminals didn't use his web-site to further their criminal actions, but that gets kind of sticky.

    I would, however, initiate a class-action lawsuit against Mr. Sheehan, listing each and every hostile phone call, threatening letter and act of vandalism made since his web-site premiered, along with (Heaven forbid) any more serious criminal offenses.

    LawDog
     
  6. BowStreetRunner

    BowStreetRunner Member

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    that man may have a right to his website but I have a right to say that he is outta line and is doing something that 99% of those LEOS dont deserve because as HBK said they do a risky service for the community and most are good folks
    BSR
     
  7. grampster
    • Contributing Member

    grampster Member

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    Perhaps Mr. Sheehan could drop by my neighborhood. I would personally
    escort him to the graves of three of my friends who were killed in the
    line of duty. Then I would like to introduce him to the widow and 2 small
    children of the Michigan State Trooper from my local post who was killed
    last week trying to serve a warrant on a pedophile. Guys like Sheehan
    are a couple sandwiches short of a picnic and I hope the local leo's continue to give him some perfectly legal grief that costs him attorney money.

    grampster, back from 3 weeks vacation and grumpy.
     
  8. brookstexas

    brookstexas member

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    I think he is an ???...

    But I think it's his right, I don't like special classes of citizens though, and if I don't get special laws or consideration to protect me police, politicians etc. shouldn't either.
    BT
     
  9. WonderNine

    WonderNine member

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    None of these complaints are legit as all of this information is publicly available. If you want to argue that the website is inciting hatred, that's another matter.
     
  10. HBK

    HBK member

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    I think his rights stop at the line over which he crosses when he puts others in danger. I don't think he should be able to do that to civilians either.
     
  11. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Member

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    He posted on his website information that was legally obtained from public sources. If the officers have a gripe, go see the sources he used.
     
  12. Cal4D4

    Cal4D4 Member

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    I would not wish that on anyone. Got in the public eye once from city council meetings regarding residential care facility in our neighborhood. Few weeks of odd drive by gawkers and a few threatening phone calls. A couple of really twisted letters to the newspapers. There are more civil ways to keep the police scrutinized than putting their families at risk.
     
  13. sanchezero

    sanchezero Member

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    I bet this guy gets more parking and traffic tickets than the rest of his neighborhood combined.

    :D
     
  14. 12-34hom

    12-34hom Member

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    Theres one in every crowd...

    12-34hom.
     
  15. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

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    It's his website. He can put anything he wants on it. If he uses his website to incite violence towards any group of people, he should be held accountable civilly. Social security numbers should be way out of bounds though. On that subject, I heard that the Social Security Administration was asking for legislation that would forbid the use of the SSN for anything other then what it was originally intended. I thought it was always against the law to use an SSN for any purpose other then social security, but that the law was just widely ignored.

    It's been my experience that if someone wants to find you, they can find you. Been told plenty of times "I know where you live" or "Doesn't your wife work at the IGA?" In 1990 I had a State Police TRT Team waiting in my house for two people who were going to do a home invasion and kill my family and then go to the home of an officer from another agency who was assigned to the drug task force and repeat the crime there. Both were arrested before they ever got to my house and were sentenced to 9 years each on a conspiracy charge. I still have a listed phone number. Perhaps if I lived and worked in a large metropolitan area I would worry more. But here none of us are really hard to find.

    But in the sense of fairplay perhaps someone should put up a website giving the names, addresses and phone numbers of those people who have threatened police officers.

    Jeff
     
  16. hammer4nc

    hammer4nc Member

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    Has anyone visited the website? Link: http://justicefiles.org

    They just had this guy interviewed on Sunday Today show, in which they publicized his website...probably accounts for the slow page loading times.

    I clicked on a few cities, they have some names and salary figures for various police, but the fields for address, phone #, etc., are blank on the towns I visited.

    Click on "east side narcotics task force". The guy makes an editorial comment against asset forfeiture/seizure, with a couple of graphs (Bellevue, I think) plotting growth in seizure acivity. We've discussed this topic on both tfl and thr, with the prevailing leo opinion being that a)asset forfeiture/seizure is not practiced in their dept. (so it doesn't exist); or b) the ends justify the means...druggie dirtbags deserve everything they get, regardless of due process. I think he's got a point that some jurisdictions have turned this into a goldmine. We're on thin ice when lea's profit from arrests seizures. One hopes this exposure will cause review of this policy? (yeah, right) Leo's feel free to weigh in on asset seizure/forfeiture.

    Various pd's have put up so-called "John" websites, with pictures of arrestees for soliciting prostitution...with apparently little concern for defendants privacy/welfare? Is this not a two way street? Example link: http://www.ci.stpaul.mn.us/depts/police/prostitution_photos_current.html

    At the present time, .gov maintains extensive files with citizens' personal information. Shared among govt agencies. If this data is misused (and it has been), should I charge .gov as a co-defendant? Oh, they have immunity, if forgot.

    I could not find Lon Horiuchi's address or phone number on this website.
     
  17. WYO

    WYO Member

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    All this guy is doing is making it easier to do something that anyone with some time and determination (or money to pay someone) could find out anyway. Do I like it? No. But the kind of criminal who does web searches or knows enough to pay someone to do web searches for them would probably go to the effort anyway. Let's face it, all you have to do is follow someone home.

    And it's still common knowledge that hurting a cop or a cop's family member is a very bad move.
     
  18. Crimper-D

    Crimper-D Member

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    Mr. Sheehan has the wrong target...

    I wish he would turn his search talents and web page over to publiahing the vital statistics of the CEO's of the companies that flood the internet with all that SPAM! I would be VERY interested in calling a few of these creeps just to inform that we know where to find them:cuss:
     
  19. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

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    The info is already available. What's the big deal? Has been going on around here since '88.

    You can get names, addresses, DoBs, SSNs all from the county court system. Why are the po-po yelling now? *Yawn*
     
  20. MicroBalrog

    MicroBalrog member

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    El Tejon: Bravo!

    Now, why doesn't he make up a database like this, but for les federales?
     
  21. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad member

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    I believe the anti-abortion crowd recently got in trouble for doing this exact same thing to doctors (a couple of whom were indeed shot to death outside their homes.) How is providing home addresses for no other reason than harrassment a "right"? All you who think it's a "right", post your home addresses, SSNs and phone numbers here.
     
  22. MicroBalrog

    MicroBalrog member

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    Here ya go:
    Phone number - 972-3-5080974
    Israeli National ID no: 30733337 7
    Email: karpa@inter.net.il

    Apart from these, the difference between me and those cops is that their info is already publicly available AFAIK.
     
  23. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad member

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    Your address, balrog?
     
  24. MicroBalrog

    MicroBalrog member

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    MicroBalrog.

    Mivtsa Sinai 8, entry 3, apt 8, Bat-Yam, Israel.
     
  25. MicroBalrog

    MicroBalrog member

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    CTRL+V hates me.:banghead:
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2003
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