Austin Police Chief To Go After Anonymous Commenters

from the you-need-a-thicker-skin dept

Slashdot points us to the news that the police chief in Austin Texas is so upset about anonymous commenters, or commenters pretending to be police officers, on various internet websites that he's going to start going after them. His complaint? Those comments "erode public trust in the [police] department." Funny, I would think that wasting public resources going after a bunch of random internet commenters rather than focusing on actual crime prevention and solving would do a lot more to erode the public trust in the police department.


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  1.  
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    Grady, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 4:59am

    If,,,,,,

    If the commenters are pretending to be officers, then they are breaking the law. Yes there are better things to spend the time/money on, but they are still going after and trying to prevent a crime.

     

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  2.  
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    ..., Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:10am

    Remember

    It is Texas after all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:12am

    Well if his own officers want to comment anonymously I think that is protected by the constitution it is not?

    Take the good with the bad is all I'm saying.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:15am

    It is Texas after all, but what makes it any different than the cases of this happening anywhere else? One person gets his panties in a knot and makes stupid comments and plans, and suddenly its about the state? I'm from Texas and I don't agree with the Chief's plans, so don't lump us all into that category just because of where we're from. And just for the record, I would love to explain to the idiots in East Texas what I see as the way copyright and patents are supposed to work, which is nothing like the way they seem to believe it should.

     

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  5.  
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    moore850 (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:16am

    That is actually a crime

    Impersonating a police officer is a serious crime under any circumstances. At the very least, it amounts to documented fraud -- the easiest kind to prosecute, once you can positively I.D. the person who posted the fraud (and that's pretty easy with digital forensics).

     

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  6.  
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    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:18am

    why?

    People are impersonating officers and issuing false statements on behalf of the officers.

    That is a crime.

    It's up to the police to investigate these crimes.

    What's techdirt got against this?

     

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    noah, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:29am

    Does nobody read?

    The commenters are pretending to be cops, which is illegal, and are making false statements of fact, which is libel. I'm not sure why you object to the police chief going after them for either one, unless you didn't actually read and are just reacting to the /. headline. You should know /. is flamebait.

     

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  8.  
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    Rover (whoops that's blown it...), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:30am

    Since comments are often anonymous or written under a pseudonym and everryone knows that "on the internet nobody knows you're a dog" I don't think it is actually possible to impersonate somebody else in a comment.

     

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  9.  
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    zaven (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:35am

    Re: If,,,,,,

    But if they are anonymous, how do you know that they are not police officers. They could be officers posting anonymously.

     

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  10.  
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    zaven (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:39am

    Re: That is actually a crime

    No one actually knows if a crime is being committed or not. The anonymous commenter could be a police officer after all.

     

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  11.  
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    maclizard (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:39am

    Lets be honest here...

    It has been years since I last hear anyone say that they had any trust in their police department.

     

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  12.  
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    zaven (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:40am

    Re: Does nobody read?

    "The commenters are pretending to be cops"

    You don't know that they are pretending. No one does.

     

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  13.  
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    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:41am

    Re: Lets be honest here...

    I feel sorry for you.

    I have absolute trust in my local police department.

    It has been years since I had the adolescent distrust of those responsible for my protection.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:43am

    Use TOR and all this non-sense will go away.

    What the police or any authority should do is have an official channel and let the mess in the community be, what this will do is bring a lot of nut cases that will believe even more in what the other nut jobs were saying.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:47am

    Nyer nyer

    can't catch me now, copper!

    *dingdong*
    Oh wait, there is someone at the door.

     

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  16.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 5:57am

    The commenters are pretending to be cops

    But I don't think that someone reading a comment has a reasonable expectation that a commenter is a certain person or type of person simply because they say they are. Impersonating a police officer is a crime because it enables you to exercise the powers of a police officer. On the net when making a "self identified" comment there is no way to exercise those powers. You might as well arrest the actors in police dramas!

    The internet is really a kind of "stage".

    If a stand up comedian dressed up in uniform and did a routine "as if he was a police officer" would you arrest him?

     

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  17.  
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    maclizard (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:06am

    RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    "I feel sorry for you."

    I am terribly insulted by this statement.

    "It has been years since I had the adolescent distrust of those responsible for my protection."

    So, in the past, you have distrusted law enforcement? Calling my distrust 'adolescent' is basically saying "I'm not listening because you're a kid, despite the fact that I have in fact held this very opinion in the past."

    YOUR protection? If I were to guess, I would say you still support the Bush administration.

     

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    Noob, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:13am

    Not sure the internet is a stage, but old people need to learn that you can't believe everything you read on the net. Postings on the net are gossip and opinion no more no less and should be taken as such. The people who think this is libel and "impersonating a police officer" are the same geezers like my father-in-law who forward every "Obama is a pinko-neo-fascist-muslim-terrorist" email they receive as if it was undeniable truth.

     

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    Noob, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:14am

    Re: RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    noone cares if you are insulted

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re:

    Just because there are a few idiot judges in East Texas doesn't mean I agree with them. I'm from East Texas but don't agree with those judges, so don't lump us all into that category just because of where we're from.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:21am

    Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    Then you've never lived in a very small town and had someone in your extended family piss off the local police department. Cops are mostly retards who couldn't get a real job.

     

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  22.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:21am

    Re:

    Perhaps the anonymous poster claiming to be a police officer was in fact posting @ someone to "pull over". That would ne a serious, serious offense for a non-police officer.

    On the Internet, the only group more feared and respected than anonymous police are the grammar nazis.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:21am

    Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    YOU are the one responsible for your protection. The police are just there to enforce the law. Enforcing the law is not the same as preventing crime.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:31am

    Re: RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    Calm down. The Bush administration has very little to do with anything in this conversation. Throwing around political bias is the best way to make sure people don't give a crap about what you say.

     

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  25.  
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    maclizard (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:32am

    Re: Re: RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    You mean you don't care. I'm sure not everyone feels the same way as you.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    All politicians are terrorists. That's why they're politicians.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:43am

    I am a police officer and I love to steal shit from my city (especially tax payers money by giving out speeding tickets like they are a raffle) Can i post this anon?

     

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  28.  
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    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    YOU are the one responsible for your protection. The police are just there to enforce the law. Enforcing the law is not the same as preventing crime.

    wow, thats the dumbest thing I have read today. Grats!

     

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  29.  
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    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:49am

    Re: RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    I am terribly insulted by this statement.
    I'm pretty sure you should be.

    So, in the past, you have distrusted law enforcement?
    ya, back when I was a teenager. It's an adolescent thing.

    Calling my distrust 'adolescent' is basically saying "I'm not listening because you're a kid, despite the fact that I have in fact held this very opinion in the past."
    Not at all. I said basic distrust of police is adolescent behavior. Which it is. And I was an adolescent when I distrusted the police. Go figure.

    YOUR protection? If I were to guess, I would say you still support the Bush administration.
    I have no idea how you arrived at that logic. It makes no sense whatsoever. I am a citizen. The police are indeed here to protect citizens. What's your problem with my thinking the police are here for my protection?

     

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  30.  
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    Fracture, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:53am

    The actual solution is the one that is the most hypocritical to the police: take away the right to remain anonymous for those seeking reputation.

    Reputation has to be earned by those that speak or take action in the name of themselves or an organization and thus require an identity for recognition. If the police chief wants to preserve the character and image of the department, force all those who post to provide a name and badge number on each post.

     

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  31.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    Adolescent?

    So you think all cops are perfect individuals who should be trusted at all times?

    Let's ask a simple question:

    You're driving, no conditions specified, a cop says "do you know why I pulled you over?"

    do you answer or not?

    The fact is, you trust officers, and you would answer, implicating yourself. 5th amendment doesn't stop you from incriminating yourself if you willingly speak out. How serious can that get?

    See, I can play your strawman argument too, because I have complete distrust of officers. Some are polite, sure, but most are not trustworthy or even there for our safety.

     

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    NullOp, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:03am

    COP

    It seems to me the head cop should know better than to "go after" your run-of-the-mill internet nuts. I think the majority of citizens in Austin would rather he keep "going after" criminals. In general, police departments everywhere should have a thick skin. Everyone thinks they can do it better, no matter what it is.

     

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  33.  
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    Esahc (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    You live in Pleasantville don't you

     

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    Richard (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    o, in the past, you have distrusted law enforcement?
    ya, back when I was a teenager. It's an adolescent thing.


    Recently I heard the tale of Michael Mansfield's mother on the radio (Michael Mansfield is a famous defence/civil rights lawyer here in the UK). She was a fine upstanding citzen who always trusted authority until a policeman issued her with a parking ticket when she was parked perfectly legally. She fought the case herself in court, called her disabled husband as a witness and won the case. The policeman had been lying. She never trusted or respected them after that and the incident inspired her son to his legal career.

    For her it was the trust of the police which turned out to be an adolescent thing that she outgrew!

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:27am

    Re: Re: If,,,,,,

    "But if they are anonymous, how do you know that they are not police officers. They could be officers posting anonymously."

    More humorously, what happens when a police officer who is an anonymous commenter is assigned to investigate "The case of the anonymous commenters". Does he slap the cuffs on himself, march his ass into the station house, and proudly announce, "Book me, Danno"?

    Does he get a commendation along with his prison sentence? If he has second thoughts about arresting himself, does he get charged with resisting arrest? In the court of law, could he confront himself as his own accuser?

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Police trend towards being big-ego corrupt pricks. Then they waste their time with something like this because they have too much of a chip on their shoulder to understand that Internet posts are not to be considered truth or reality. You know, the 'all the women are men, all the kids are FBI agents,' &etc...

    The way police operate, some cop could post the truth ('Hey guys, I extorted $50 bucks from this spic I pulled over for no reason and then threatened with arrest and a ticket, what a moron...') and Big Chief Cop could see it and have it rub him the wrong way. Goes against his egotistical image of all cops being angelic supermen keeping everyone safe.

    The reality of cops is that there are a few good ones, but that doesn't mean they'll be there when you actually need them.

     

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    Bubba Gump (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Re: If,,,,,,

    He could get out of all that if he just bribed himself...

     

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    OldGeek, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Hmmm

    Sounds to me like they're trying to shut-up whistle blowers. After all the truth always seems to kill political careers.

     

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  39.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    I once got pulled over because I was driving too slowly, according to the police officers.
    The maximum speed on that part of the motorway was 120km/h, the minimum is I believe 60km/h (unless otherwise indicated). I was doing 100km/h (according to my GPS device), by comparison trucks are only allowed to drive 80km/h on our motorways.
    It was freezing that night, there were ice patches on the road.
    And according to all public safety notices on the subject of slippery roads the advice is to lower your speed. Yet these fine police officers thought it necessary to pull me over.

    Thankfully, they only gave a warning, otherwise I would have contested.

     

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    Palmyra (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Texas, let it go own its own.

     

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    Anonymous1, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 8:55am

    @Misanthropist: You don't get along with people, but have a healthy respect for law enforcement? Good for you. That being said, any view you have on other people's opinion is YOUR opinion. If you're going to act like it's some scientifically proven fact, when it's you're opinion however, then please do STFU.You don't get to tell anyone anywhere how to think, so you can kindly stuff it, YOU AUTHORITY CODDLED POS.

     

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  42.  
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    Shawn (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 8:56am

    When will people learn

    You can't believe everything you read on the Internet. That is how World War I got started!

     

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    herodotus (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 8:57am

    "I have absolute trust in my local police department.

    It has been years since I had the adolescent distrust of those responsible for my protection."


    Absolute trust in any organization taken as a whole is childish. There is no category of human beings that is worthy of absolute trust. Not priests. Not doctors. Neither teachers nor senators nor judges. And certainly not police officers.

    Even a smattering of historical knowledge will bear this out.

     

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    DavisPrime (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    @Misanthropist My experience has been the exact opposite. I had absolute trust in police officers as an adolescent. It was later in life when I developed my distrust. I now believe they are glorified tax collectors.

     

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    Anonymous1, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 9:04am

    @Misanthropist: By the way you authority coddled POS, what exactly, from a factual analysis, does your trust in authority have to do with this story? NOTHING. You could have absolute trust in YOUR local police, and the police in AUSTIN are still wrong. Unless there is absolute 100 % proof of a crime, they are barking up the wrong tree in IMHO. Your trust/ lack of trust has no factual bearing on what occurs in the real world outside your head. So the police in this case are possibly being overzelous in their enforcement, and you with no knowledge of the actual case, throw a "shout out" in support of your local police. Well good for you, but that has NOTHING to do with the discussion here. By the way, IMHO, the police chief sounds like the coward if he can't take the heat.

     

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    taoareyou (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Just an Idea

    Perhaps the chief is hoping that one of the anonymous posters is from the Bahamas or some nice European resort city so he can justify going there to apprehend them. :)

    Oh and "Impersonating a police officer is sometimes committed in order to assert police-like authority in order to commit a crime. Posing as a police officer enables the offender to legitimize the appearance of an illegal act, such as; breaking and entry, making a traffic stop, or detaining." so says the mighty Wiki.

    I don't think any posters are trying to commit an illegal act as a result of a comment claiming to be an officer. Going after commenters is trivial and will only be perceived as petty and wasteful of time and taxpayer dollars.

    If there are no murderers, rapists, drug dealers, kidnappers, etc. on the street, sure, go keep yourself busy. If not, time to replace the chief.

     

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    Native Texan, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Get a rope!

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Re: When will people learn

    "You can't believe everything you read on the Internet. That is how World War I got started!"

    Thank you. You made my day!

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re: Re:

    Are you a judge in East Texas? Somehow I doubt it.

     

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  50.  
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    Luci, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Re: why?

    Quite simple: How do you know they are impersonating officers? How do you know the statements are false? You can't prove either of these, so you can't prove a crime has been committed which would then require the commentators to be unveiled in the pursuit of 'justice,' whatever that is, anymore.

    It's a Catch-22, babe. If you unmask them, and they ARE cops, then you've just violated their right to anonymity.

     

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    Matt S (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 10:07am

    libel against specific officers

    This article could have done a better job of clearing stating the facts presented in the original article. Most of the comments here insist there can't be any impersonation going on because, after all, the supposed police comments are anonymous. However, you find out it was specific officers who had their identities falsely used if you take the time to read the linked article.

     

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  52.  
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    Luci, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    Adolescent distrust? Again, you make a remarkable statement. Your analysis of the psyche of the average man is absolutely astounding. Truly, you have lived a sheltered life if you have absolute trust in a government authority.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous1, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Misanthropist was just a trolling POS anyhow. He takes the time to have a pretty picture of himself, but somehow rational thought escapes him. SOOOO Fing pathetic.

     

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  54.  
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    Rob Larsen (profile), Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Dear Lord

    I fail to see how Joe-Police-Department has ANY jurisdiction over anything online... let alone how ANY government agency would. They don't own the internet.

    Secondly, this is happening quite often lately and its really, REALLY disturbing. A small town council member was recently on a talk radio show out here in Seattle because he demanded a local newspaper give him the email address of a commenter on their website... and the newspaper did. The council member then sent an email directly to that poster demanding he recall his information.

    I'm pretty sure government stifling speech is UNCONSTITUTIONAL but our country stopped caring years ago. This is getting outrageous. I don't care if some guy from a Texas police department disagrees with it but going after a citizen for a constitutionally protected right should be punishable by death.

     

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    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 11:31am

    "A lot of my people feel it is time to take these people on," Acevedo said. "They understand the damage to the organization, and quite frankly, when people are willfully misleading and lying, they are pretty much cowards anyway because they are doing so under the cloak of anonymity."

    That's rich. So I guess all those Austin cops who wear black tape over their badge numbers while they bust undesirables on trumped up charges...They are all cowards according to Acevedo...

    ...And I agree wholeheartedly with Acevedo on that point.

    CBMHB

     

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    d sherman, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Re: Remember

    yes it is texas after all and.. hes the former head of california highway patrol so wonder where he got this crap from?

     

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    Ben Zayb, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re: Remember

    Uhm, Texas.

     

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    Ben Zayb, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re:

    Or even skimming through George Orwell.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Re:

    of course the internet is a stage. all of life is a stage after all

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 4:15pm

    "Those comments "erode public trust in the [police] department.""

    In other words you have free speech so long as your free speech doesn't say anything that the government or big corporations disagree with.

     

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    Dan, Sep 23rd, 2009 @ 11:49pm

    Austin?

    Isn't Austin the place that undercover cops attack little girls on their own front porch, beat the girl's father and charge the girl with prostitution? Who could possibly insult that police force anymore then they have done to themselves? Why would anybody not trust this police force? As to the Texas bias, you seem to have a disproportionate number of nuts there, including a police chief that doesn't understand the first amendment. But then Texas politicians don't seem to care much about the constitution anyway, unless its about guns. We can only hope that the next father of a little girl being attacked on her front porch doesn't kill her attackers on the spot. Would the NRA support that action? HMMMM

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2009 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re: RE:Re: Lets be honest here...

    I care... T_T

     

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  63.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Lets be honest here...

    > > YOU are the one responsible for your protection.
    > > The police are just there to enforce the law.
    > > Enforcing the law is not the same as preventing
    > > crime.

    > wow, thats the dumbest thing I have read today.

    Not hardly. As a cop myself, I'd be the first to say you're hopelessly naive if you're relying on the police to protect you. The police are essentially reactionary. Unless we get extraordinarily lucky, we usually show up after a crime has been committed and try and find out how did it and arrest them for it. Doesn't do you personally much good if you've already been assaulted, raped, or murdered.

    What the other guy said is true: you and you alone are responsible for your own protection. Don't sit by like a sheep and expect the government to do it for you or you'll inevitably end up disappointed at best.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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