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Austin Police Want Identities of Online Critics

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the don't-call-them-skanks dept.

Privacy 320

An anonymous reader writes "The police chief in Austin, TX is not happy that people are voicing their disapproval of him via anonymous blog posts and comments. He claims that 'such posts erode public trust in the department.' The chief wants to find out who these people are and investigate and prosecute such posters for statements he deems defamatory and libelous. Interestingly, the article notes, 'the Associated Press has reported that most of the cases fail because statements of opinion are protected under the First Amendment.' One wonders if this is a legitimate problem that warrants public money to investigate, or whether it's that the people who deserve the most public scrutiny don't like it when others take issue with their job performance."

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He's A Jerk (4, Funny)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475731)

That police chief in Austin, Texas? - He's a Jerk. So sue me!

Re:He's A Jerk (5, Funny)

Art Acevedo (1640589) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475753)

Yes, I'll do that GrahamCox

Re:He's A Jerk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475771)

Damn it, you beat me to the new user registration page!

Re:He's A Jerk (3, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476447)

Feel free, I'm a British Citizen, resident in Australia. I doubt his jurisdiction applies, even if in his own head he runs the world! In fact, I, on the other side of the world, now know that this guy *is* a jerk, which previously I didn't, so his jerk-like tendencies are now known globally. I think it's known as the Streisand Effect.

I encourage as many people to criticise him online as possible; he can't haul in everyone. It's the only sane response to an insane individual.

Re:He's A Jerk (3, Funny)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475805)

*facepalm* you're supposed to post anonymously

Re:He's A Jerk (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475869)

He IS a jerk. His list of jerk-like actions include:

1) Authorizing police officers to draw blood on the spot, with or without your cooperation (using a contract phlebotomist of course) if you are pulled over under suspicion of DUI.
2) Constant and aggressive speed traps all over the city (I recently observed motorcycle police tailing people into a school zone and nabbing them if they didn't hit the brakes immediately).
3) Increased patrolling and harassing motorcycle riders for helmet law violations during the ROT Motorcycle Rally. It should be noted that these were primarily older white middle class people. However, when Highland Mall requested police security for the Texas Relays their request was denied by the chief. The Texas Relays attract mostly black youth, which in itself is not a problem. The problem is that the entourage they attract has in the past loitered in the mall, intimidated shoppers, and in fact resulted in fights breaking out inside the mall. The chief denied the mall owner's request because black community leaders would have crucified him had he not done so.
4) Hiring so many police officers that it becomes a strain on the city budget. This year's police academy class was almost suspended except that existing officers agreed to forego their raises. The chief is a big fan of "preventative patrolling" (but only in the form of speed traps, not in truly high-crime areas like Lamar & Rundberg). Methinks this must be tied to the budget strain. Plus, Mr. Acevedo wouldn't want to be accused of racial profiling in a primarily Mexican immigrant neighborhood.

The country should also know that an Austin police officer recently shot a young black man in the back of the head while he was fleeing. Gee, I can't imagine what the young man must've been afraid of! As you might expect, the police officer was essentially let off the hook.

Re:He's A Jerk (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475923)

FYI, posting anonymously because APD fucking scares me. This once-peaceful town is morphing into a police-state before my very eyes. It should also be noted that Austin is run by Progressives, and prides itself on being a model for other cities. We're only a few steps away from police checkpoints throughout the city. From environmental laws so strict that only the mega-rich can build anything, to police harassment of citizens, this place is becoming a microcosm of fascism. Ironic for a place that prides itself on being so liberal, tolerant, and "weird." Remember folks, we're trying to be a model city. Expect to see this crap coming your way soon.

A Deeply Concerned Austin Resident

Re:He's A Jerk (1, Interesting)

bangthegong (1190059) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476113)

Interesting with all that policing and tolerant liberal/progressive do gooders running things Austin can't seem to do anything about the homeless begging at every major intersection even outside the city, and harassing you for change urinating on things, stealing, and generally being a nuisance, if you are walking around downtown. I don't live in Austin but I visit for work and the people are mostly nice but the town they have created for themselves really does suck.

Re:He's A Jerk (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476215)

Well, expecting people to earn their bread is cruel. Instilling them with a sense of accomplishment that they earned the food on their table, however humble it may be, is considered cruel. Enabling them to be lazy and to procreate without bounds by giving them free bread and thus beginning the cycle of poverty anew is much more compassionate!

Re:He's A Jerk (5, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476279)

The homeless are a problem? Skip over that - there are estimates that human trafficking has almost a million victims (yeah, a victimless crime, right) who have passed through or into Texas in recent years. Sometimes, little boys and girls as young as 10, 11, or 12 years old, being brought into our nation to be sold into sex slavery.

Where's Austin? It sits astride Interstate 10 and Interstate 35. A HUGE portion of that human trafficking passes through Austin.

Instead of battling online anonymity, maybe the police chief should be out searching vehicles for child whores being carried to points east and points north.

Re:He's A Jerk (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476401)

Skip over that - there are estimates that human trafficking has almost a million victims (yeah, a victimless crime, right)

IS anybody arguing that Human Trafficking is a victimless crime?

Art Acevedo is a Republican (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476325)

. . . although a moderate. I guess in Texas that qualifies as a "OMG Flaming Lib'rul."

Re:Art Acevedo is a Republican (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476469)

Didn't you get the memo? Modern Republicans are basically "Democrat Lite." Being liked is more important than being right, if you are a politician. The social policy differences are a red-herring targeted at the simple-minded on both sides. Otherwise, Republicans and Democrats look very similar, except that Democrats are less obvious about getting into bed with big corporations (like GE trading favorable news coverage of all things Obama on NBC for lucrative energy contracts from the Waxman-Markey bill, for a current example), and the traditional media is less enthusiastic about pointing out Democrat examples of treachery than Republican examples.

Re:He's A Jerk (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475933)

Texas is basically the worst state in the nation for speeding tickets. It got so bad that the state legislature passed a law saying that a given town could only make a certain percentage of its income by writing tickets!

P.S. A "speed trap" is where you estimate speed based on distance and time. I don't know about Texas, but it's illegal in California. Being parked just behind a speed limit sign which is itself invisible until you are on top of it in Johnson City isn't illegal, it just makes you a big fucking asshole. Texas? Will not visit again, except perhaps for business. Will probably fly right to my destination if I do. Will be very careful about where I spend my money to avoid funding bullshit like what is perpetrated by the average cop in the state. Not that I am in love with cops in California...

Re:He's A Jerk (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476171)

It got so bad that the state legislature passed a law saying that a given town could only make a certain percentage of its income by writing tickets!

Of course that law has holes in it big enough to drive a fleet of 18-wheelers through.

Only "ticket revenue" counts. "Court Fees" don't count. So what they do now, essentially, is that you get dragged in, you're not allowed to plead not-guilty without being there in person (not even sending a legal representative is allowed in most towns/counties, a deliberate method for fucking over out-of-towners).

But they offer you either to "take defensive driving and pay a court fee" or "take deferred adjudication and pay a court fee." Oddly enough, the court fees are actually slightly-more-expensive than the ticket would normally be, except that you don't get reported in to your insurance as being "guilty" of a traffic infraction if you go that route.

Oh, and Texas isn't the only state in the nation to do this. Cops everywhere (Arkansas is actually worse than Texas, as is Louisiana) target out-of-state plates.

Re:He's A Jerk (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476333)

"passed a law saying that a given town could only make a certain percentage of its income by writing tickets!" That doesn't sound too smart. A small percentage? So that will force the "cops" to issue even more, bigger tickets. They should have set that percentage to ZERO....

Re:He's A Jerk (3, Informative)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476409)

"Speed trap" also refers to a place where police routinely camp and very strictly enforce a speed limit because it's very easy to "accidentally" be going over it. I'd say, "speed trollin" is more accurate. However, we have many tiny little 1000 person cities in TX on your way from say.. Austin to Dallas.. and if you go through one of them at 3:30 AM going from 70 on a highway to 40 in-town within 600 ft (note, the "speed slows" warning is roughly 600 feet from the actual 40mph sign) meaning you MUST brake quite hard to make the limit, and behind the sign through this 2 mile wide city on this one road there are at least 6 cops. I've seen it many times and been pulled over by them once, driving back home from a trip to Austin, no kidding.. in a convenient store parking lot in the middle of this deserted town I had 6.. SIX cops with their lights on behind me. I was going 44 in a 40. He only gave me a warning. Everywhere else in the country I've been it's been hard as hell to get speeding tickets but here.. they're handed out like candy.

Re:He's A Jerk (4, Insightful)

S77IM (1371931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476081)

Are you kidding??? Were you paying attention to the previous police administration? Acevedo is a vast improvement. He is a regular cop who rose through the ranks, not a politician looking for a desk job with a lot of power. He is trying to clean up the department and instill the sort of discipline needed to not shoot black people (which has been a tragic recurring problem that the previous administration basically ignored). And Austin has hired a lot of cops recently is because (surprise, surprise) crime has been increasing. Reasons for this are unclear, but the economic downturn must play a part, and a lot of it is blamed on Katrina evacuees (racism again?). In my neighborhood we monitor local crimes and the police response time has improved greatly. Austin still has the one of the lowest police budgets and number of police per capita of any major US city, and some of the lowest crime statistics. So claiming that Austin is becoming a police state is silly.

Is the APD perfect? Heck no. That blood-draw thing is kind of crap, and for some reason they have been killing people in high-speed chases lately (I guess since they are no longer allowed to shoot black people). But compared to most other police departments, APD is really good, and Acevedo has the unenviable job of trying to make it better. I hope he succeeds.

  -- 77IM

Re:He's A Jerk (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476211)

Houston, TX's crime rates (homicide in particular) doubled right after Katrina when all the "refugees" came, and hasn't gone back down since. Less than 1/10 of the "refugees" have gone home to the NO area. Coincidence? I find it hard to believe. You can scream "racism" all you like, but if people who were supposed to be here "temporarily" are still in my city committing crimes to this day, I'm gonna be pissed off at them.

Re:He's A Jerk (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476339)

"That blood-draw thing is kind of crap"

Kind of? What planet are you from? If that doesn't scream "Police State," then in your mind what does? Will the blood sample be promptly disposed of after the BAC test is run, or will they also collect a DNA sample and store it in a database to compare against in the future?

"a lot of it is blamed on Katrina evacuees (racism again?)"

I know this might not fit in with your world view, but predominantly black and hispanic neighborhoods DO have higher violent crime rates. Making a statement of fact is not racist, and ignoring uncomfortable facts don't make them go away. The people left behind in NO immediately following Katrina were little better off than domesticated animals, because that is what liberal social policies of enablement made them into. The abject failure of the Great Society was on display for the whole world to see, and it was downright offensive. The reason that liberals were so outraged was because it struck a huge blow to their golden calf of unlimited entitlements for all who seek them. People often scream the loudest when you ask them to reconcile obvious contradictions in their own deeply-revered personal beliefs.

Re:He's A Jerk (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476485)

APD is fine except for the mummy cops.

Re:He's A Jerk (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476163)

5. Pushed for a never ending supply of stop light cameras then basicly ignored his officers running red lights [] .

That said on a personal level I've had very good experiences with Austin Cops. I just disagree with department policy.

Re:He's A Jerk (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476313)

This isn't a police office nor a police department but a gang with blue shirts. The FBI needs to investigate. If found guilty, the chief needs to be made a *CLEAR EXAMPLE* of police gangsta's. Lock him up for 100 years, take his house, his pension, *EVERYTHING* then publicize it to give a clear warning to other police chiefs and offices.

Re:He's A Jerk (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476383)

The Police Union (a Syndicate all unto themselves) would prevent any such action from happening.

Re:He's A Jerk (0, Troll)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476329)

Enforcing the law is a good thing! I hate hate HATE that the law is expected the be treated like this. What is the point of making laws if not to enforce them? All you are doing is giving the state something to hold against you if you ever piss them off. Racist cop? 'Hey I caught you doing 55 in a 50 AND jaywalking last week.'. The idea that we would want rules meant to be broken but can be enforced at the cops whim is scary. If you don't like it why not change the law instead?

Getting the most out of his budget is his job. If managed to get another 50 cops on the street making him more effective that is what he is SUPPOSED to be doing. Mandate him to do other stuff if you don't like it. The forced blood tests sound pretty shady but again if it is made legal in Texas then he is simply being prudent. If you don't like it, make a provision.

Re:He's A Jerk (1, Insightful)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476349)

Legalize all drugs (drug war is a complete failure), eliminate 90-99% of the "police" force, direct that money into education, hospitals, homes and churches. How about that? Sounds good to me.

Re:He's A Jerk (2, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476079)

So, register at the Statesman, and comment. I've been registered there for some time - just posted my first comment on the article. There will be more - I use the same name over there. Join in the discussion!!

Anonymous coward ftw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475735)

I remember hearing something about this department being a little over zealous with their shenanigans before this. Sounds like the sheriff isn't too happy with being criticized .

Well, there is a problem here (4, Insightful)

Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475737)

but the problem is not the one the police chief is making it out to be.

The problem is that it is utter waste-of-space career political figures such as him don't like criticism. There are laws and processes he can follow to make a case for someone's identity - if he can show reasonable grounds that they have committed libel or deliberate defamation.

He says, "There ought to be a law against people saying nasty things about me."

I say, "Get lost you ignorant pigfucker. Don't go into politics if you can't stand being publicly criticised. Oh, and expect to have to pay for legal advice before you make yourself look like a rube hick crying to the press about what your critics say."

Honestly. If they're not litigious bastards, they want the laws changed or fabricated out of fictional whole-cloth to engineer the political landscape most suited to their aims. Constitutional protections are just an inconvenience.

Too little, too late. (5, Funny)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475861)

He claims that 'such posts erode public trust in the department.'

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the ship has sailed on that one.

Re:Too little, too late. (1)

fredjh (1602699) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475913)

It's like the "do these jeans make my ass look big?" question... no, you're big ass makes your ass look big.

Do these posts erode public trust in the department? No, the department erodes public trust in the department.

Re:Too little, too late. (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476347)

I'd watch yourself, I hear Mr. Acevedo is sensitive about his weight.

Re:Well, there is a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476075)

Now, are you saying he has sex with pigs? Wouldn't what you just said be considered libel?

Not surprising (2, Insightful)

webheaded (997188) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475749)

There are people like this everywhere. As long as there are police upholding the law, there will be police trying to abuse it, and it would appear no one ever really does anything. Maybe the citizens of that city will get lucky and the mayor will come down and tell him to knock it off if for nothing else other than the fact that he's wasting money. It's been proven that if eroding our civil liberties won't get a politician's attention, money will. That being said, I wish someone on one of those damn news networks calling each other UnAnmerican(tm) about this or that would come together and agree that things like THIS are un-American...but there I go again...being an idealist. *sigh*

Re:Not surprising (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475785)

Aye, me be thinkin thar be only one way te keep te copper from te coppers: All must keep to a Code, guidelines if ye will. Three of 'em:
      1. Serve the public trust
      2. Protect the innocent
      3. Uphold the law
      4. (Classified)

Of course, if ye landlubbers want true freedom, take to te sea, 'cause it's a pirate life for me.

Re:Not surprising (1)

nstlgc (945418) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475843)

4. Never oppose an OCP officer

Re:Not surprising (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475885)

What part of "classified" don't you understand?




He proves their point (4, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475773)

People are posting anonymously because they have no trust in the police.

bad summary (5, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475775)

From TFA:

People who misrepresent themselves as officials in online comments could face civil, criminal penalties, Acevedo says.


Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says he and some of his officers have been harassed, lied about and had their identities falsely used


In March, the social networking site Twitter shut down a fake account that pretended to issue official Austin police bulletins after the department and the Texas attorney general's office complained.


State lawmakers this year passed a law that took effect Sept. 1 making it a third-degree felony to use another person's name to post messages on a social networking site without their permission and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten.


A police commander has had his name falsely used as the author of comments about the department.

The main issue here doesn't seem to be people posting "cops suck!", which is of course protected speech, but rather low-grade identity theft.

Re:bad summary (5, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475799)

yep he is totally justified in wanting to find these people - they are breaking the law pretending to be police officers online.

leave it to /. to not get the facts straight.

Re:bad summary (4, Interesting)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475983)

How do you know they are pretending?

Facts straight now. Re:bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476027)

Way to RTFA GP. The summary sucked but now we know the truth. You can't stop the flow of information!

"They're trashing our rights! Trashing! Trashing! Hack the planet!"

Re:bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476107)

yep he is totally justified in wanting to find these people - they are breaking the law pretending to be police officers online.

that was just one of the reasons given, the others being criticism (hence Herr Acevedo's quote about "libel")

Re:bad summary (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476173)

If the posts are in fact libelous, then the department has a firm platform to pursue the individuals responsible and I support them in that effort. If the posts are not libelous then they're being idiots and should grow a thicker skin. I haven't seen the posts so I can't say either way.

satire is protected speech you dolt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475931)

It is me Art Acevedo, posting here from the dark side of the Moon.
I think I'll go dolt some pigs now, oooh, a doughnut, space doughnuts, hmmmmmmmm

Re:bad summary (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475963)

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says he and some of his officers have been harassed, lied about and had their identities falsely used

These are separate things. And their claims of "harassment" could well be people sharing uncomfortable truths (likewise "lied about") which are inconvenient to the police. I've got no personal beef with the Austin police, but then, I'm (more or less) white.

You are making assumptions without any basis. If I wanted the identities of a bunch of commenters, could I use tor (or similar) to connect to a website and make comments under my name, then claim they weren't made by me, and get the true identities of all commenters under subpoena?

Police are licensed gangs. They are not there to protect you. They are there to make sure that the status quo is maintained. That is all.

Fun, paranoid moment: I had to post the link to the story to my fb twice because the first time, it failed to appear on my wall even AFTER a link I posted 30 minutes later.

Re:bad summary (1)

kd5zex (1030436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476217)

Police are licensed gangs. They are not there to protect you. They are there to make sure that the status quo is maintained. That is all.

Exactly. In fact, the SCOTUS even had a little something to say on the issue. See Castle Rock v. Gonzales or DeShaney v. Winnebago County if you are interested. The latter is a social agency but still a state agency tasked with "protecting" people.

While not all cops are bad, there are plenty that are. The main duty of a modern police officer is to keep the city coffers stuffed with fines imposed on the citizens (their employers). I once thought we were a free people until I did a little research on the dangerous violation of public intoxication. Turns out that you (in Texas) can be arrested and fined for doing anything, at anytime in any place, other than submitting to the "order" of a police officer. Hell, if you don't submit properly you can be arrested and fined, if you are lucky you won't even get tazed.

A big problem down here is the practice of hiring of former military personnel by police forces often "right off the boat" who have had the common sense portion of their brains removed. One of my personal favorites is the police referring to citizens (their employers) as civilians.

Re:bad summary (1)

Shark (78448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476449)

Police are licensed gangs. They are not there to protect you. They are there to make sure that the status quo is maintained. That is all.

You must have seen this [] then...

I'm not entirely sure just how much bias this thing has as I am not in the US, but I must admit it makes me scared to have to deal with the police there if I ever visit.

Re:bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476157)

As an officer working for Austin PD I can confirm that we are indeed a bunch of abusive fascists.

Re:bad summary (1)

TechnologyResource (1638031) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476439)

Article says, "his officers have been harassed, lied about and had their identities falsely used." If they are being "lied about," that's different from what you are saying. There's not a lot he can do about that part of it if there are no threats involved. I believe this Slashdot article is accurate.

Public trust is eroded (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475779)

Ummm,,,,public trust has to be earned too. Acting like a f***ing crybaby won't help.

Double-edged kick me sign (1)

SystematicPsycho (456042) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475783)

This article appearing on slashdot with user comments is a double-edged kick me sign - for those who post against the chief and for the chief himself.

Not to sound like a meme, here ... (0) (45841) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475811)

But isn't this the kind of goings on we saw in Soviet Russia (or any dictatorial/authoritarian regime, for that matter). When the USSR was the bogeyman, this behavior was what they used to try to scare us with (well, that and nukes).

Seriously, when did the US turn into a society where people have to be afraid to criticize those in power (whether they need it or not)?

Re:Not to sound like a meme, here ... (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476227)

In Soviet Russia, police criticize citizens in the media.

Vicious cycle (1)

neurogeneticist (1631367) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475815)

So a bunch of people who don't like the way the police department is being run post anonymously what they don't like (i.e. "The Chief blows goats"). While this may not be particularly constructive, what kind of message do you send by "out-ing" these posters publicly? You basically give the dissenters a Streisand effect, and prove that you actually do, in fact, blow goats -- thereby increasing the pool of dissenters.

erode public trust? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475817)

surely that's down to public officials who do stupid and arbitrary things (such as trying to censor, prosecute or shut down his critics), not the people who criticise them for it.

Maybe if this guy wants to be respected, he should start acting respectably.

He just proved them right. (1, Insightful)

TranceThrust (1391831) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475819)

A police chief who wants to use the law to shut up those who criticize him. If this doesn't ring "police-state" alarm bells then I don't know what will. This chief should go.

Re:He just proved them right. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475845)

Except that's not the complaint, the complaint is that people are misreperesenting themselves as police officers and other officials to make their complaints which is different. Did anyone here read the article?

Re:He just proved them right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476001)

You must be new . NO one else RTFA except you

Re:He just proved them right. (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476381)

I think he and his entire deparment should be fired, and their pensions revoked for complete incompetence...

somewhat deserved? (5, Informative)

Dale512 (1073668) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475875)

He claims that 'such posts erode public trust in the department.'

Perhaps the variety of bullshit crap they pull has eroded the public trust in the department. Many of the police in the jurisdictions around Austin end up on the poop list of most of the civil rights organizations for a reason.

The most recent story I recall had one of the news stations showing a ton of cops rolling through red lights over a 24 hour period (think one light had 13-15 cops run the light). None were responding to a call and only a handful actually flashed their lights. In any event, when not responding to a call they are forbidden to do what they did. Acevedo basically said he wasn't going to discipline anyone over it and the public should not worry about it since cops have a rough job.

Crap like this is what leads to the comments he doesn't like and rightfully so. If he quits acting like a tool maybe some of this will decrease.

If you read the article, it says something about them thinking some of it is departmental employees. It sounds more like they are on a witch hunt than any real "eroding of public confidence" claim.

Criticism is legtimate, defamation isn't. (1, Troll)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475877)

Learn the difference or keep your mouth shut.

Re:Criticism is legtimate, defamation isn't. (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476165)

Criticism is when i say "You suck at your work."
Defamation is when you claim my words "You suck at your work" prevents you from getting any work because people believe me more than you.
Its based on perception.
That is why in US, only a very few can win in courts on Defamation.
Constitution forces us to accept criticism and roll with the punches.
If you got a thin skin move to Europe.

This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (3, Insightful)

sirwired (27582) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475879)

Libelous speech is not protected speech. Never has been, never will. It matters not that the speech is online and was intended to be anonymous.

If a post consists of "Austin cops suck!", it is obviously a protected matter of opinion.

"Austin cops' mothers were hamsters and their fathers smelled of elderberries!": Obviously an exaggeration and/or satirical, and is protected via Flynt v. Falwell.

"Austin cops routinely have orgies in the backroom with arrested hookers!": Libelous (if not true) and not protected in any sense of the word. Unleash those subpeonas!

Just sayin' that this isn't necessarily bogus, and depends on the posts in question.


Re:This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475943)

"Austin cops routinely have orgies in the backroom with arrested hookers!": Libelous (if not true) and not protected in any sense of the word. Unleash those subpeonas!

But what if they do , but the cops make sure it can't be proven ?
If it's my opinion that that Austin cops routinely have orgies , based on why i consider evidence ( but what other people may not consider evidence ) , i still have the right to voice that , and i don't see why it should be libel .

So : " In my opinion , Austin cops routinely have orgies ..." , is not libel , it's just stating your opinion.

Re:This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (2, Interesting)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476007)

Is putting 'all of the content of this blog is my opinion even though I have seen some of it happen' against the law?

Re:This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476415)

You don't even need to state "In my opinion" as it is implicitly defined when posting on most sites (like Slashdot)...

Re:This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (5, Interesting)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475985)

From a comment by "gohorns" on The Statesman comment section:

why do you immediately assume that the people who are posting as police officers AREN'T police officers? Think about it...Acevedo is saying how he is upset that people would get on and pretend to be officers so they can slam the police department. That implies he already KNOWS that they aren't officers. How does he know that? The story says that they would have to subpeona records to get the names. There's no way right now that anyone can know if they are officers or not. What if they ARE officers, and they're using the only way they can to let the public know the truth about Acevedo? No wonder he wants them shut down! He's got a leak he can't plug! It's driving him nuts!

Methinks the police chief may have internal strife and is incompetent at managing his people.

Re:This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (0)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476281)

Under US law the burden of proof is on the police to prove that they have never had an orgy with arrested hookers.

Re:This is a "case-by-case" scenario... (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476429)

Probably the best solution would be to change the law so that only eunichs can be police officers.

They can set up a little room at the Police Academy.... Have a special graduation ceremony....

If you read the article (I know I know)... (2, Informative)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475905)

If you RTFA (I know, I know) he isn't saying he's going after everyone who posts negative stuff. He's saying he's going after people who pretend to be police officers or officials while posting and people who post libelous material.

All that said, the citizens of Austin should band together and get this idiot fired. This kind of ridiculous type of activity against citizens is an abuse of power if not is the legal meaning of that phrase then in the spirit of it. We shouldn't have to put up with public officials who when their feelings are hurt lash out using their offices and positions to punish critics, even the ridiculous ones. If the police chief wants to sue them in civil court with his own money and lawyers he should go right ahead. If he wants to hunt them with public resources he should be run out of town. GO DO YOUR JOB!!! and stop worrying about who is saying mean things in the school yard, sir.

Re:If you read the article (I know I know)... (1)

ghideon (720955) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476177)

Was going to mod you down, but had to ask. In the first section, you say you RTFA'd, and he's going after those who say they are cops online (or spreading libel). If they are not cops, shouldn't they be pursued? It's a crime to do so IRL, why not online? Then you say the folks in Austin should have him bounced out of office. Why? Isn't he doing what a police chief should? I agree that civil court is the place to pursue libel, but what about people (possibly) misrepresenting themselves as law enforcement? At a minimum, doing so can cause harm, and is illegal correct?

Wrong slashdot headline (0, Troll)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475917)

Austin Police Want Identities of Online Critics

Austin Police Want Identities of Online Libelous Posters

There, fixed that for ya.

Re:Wrong slashdot headline (1)

celle (906675) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476425)

How does he know they're libelous posters? They might just be cops who otherwise might end up dead if discovered. Saying they're libelous doesn't make it so, just an excuse to roll back criticism protections. If the chief wants to deal with critics just increase accountability and make public all department financial and operational data and really advertise it. If he's got nothing to hide and as a public official he shouldn't, otherwise, he shouldn't be there. There's nothing criminal about stating an incorrect opinion or impersonating in public, just actionable on a civil level. If it were criminal, advertisers/marketers would be jailed for life, politicians/religious leaders would be on death row, and all potential lawyers/businesspeople would be executed instantly.

It's your fault if you accept unverified information. The only way to really fight without violating various legally accepted rights is to put out as much verified information as possible.

Fixed the headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475919)

"Austin Police Want Identities of Online Critics"

Austin Police Want heads of Online Critics

Nothing new here....old story in Chicago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29475929)

This is nothing new to us on the north side of Chicago where our local alderman and her TIF recipients have subpoenaed bloggers for complaining about misuse of out tax dollars. You can find more on the subpoena here. [] And the EFF has even stepped in the help the lawyers supporting the bloggers. []

1st amendment (0)

notbob (73229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475947)

We wrote the constitution for a reason.

He's sworn to protect it

It's proof he hasn't read it

Sack him and be done with it for failure to do his duties.

We should have an annual test of all elected officials to make sure they know the constitution and pledge to protect and defend it properly.

Nothing to see here, carry on... (1)

c (8461) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475949)


"If you want to criticize, critique, question actions, that's allowable under the First Amendment, and we encourage that," Acevedo said. "When you start actually representing facts, when they are absolutely outright lies, that can lead to civil liability and, potentially, criminal liability."

I'm thinking this means he has a grasp of the concept...

Re:Nothing to see here, carry on... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476193)

Not necessarily. The police chief is a public figure, which means he also has to prove that the defamation was also accompanied by malice. That is notoriously difficult to do in a court of law.

The other question is who is going to pay for the legal fees. If I was a citizen I would seriously question this. In addition most lawyers won't take defamation suits on contingency because of the small settlements usually gained.

All in all I suspect that this is mostly an effort to intimidate.

The guy should be sacked.

Not before breakfast (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475967)

Did anyone else see the enlarge photo [] tag under Avecedo's picture and think "Ewwwww!"?

You can't blame Bush for this (2, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 5 years ago | (#29475993)

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the entire city council are Democrats. Austin's chief of police is appointed by the city council......if they don't agree with his actions, they can dismiss him. [] []

Fascinating comments (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476017)

      I don't know enough about the facts to really care but the comments on the article []

    are pretty fascinating. They're a fairly good reflection of the current mentality that "things I don't like = communism/fascism/scary thing".

Public trust in the department? (2, Insightful)

Dracos (107777) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476069)

Perhaps this is not as justified as the chief wants it to be. He and his subordinates are public servants, and should be held accountable. If the police are creating reason(s) for the public to distrust them, why should the public trust them?

What the chief is really saying: "I am a douchebag who thinks my position automatically entitles me to trust and respect."

Re:Public trust in the department? (1)

TRRosen (720617) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476459)

What the chief is really saying: "I am a douchebag who thinks my position automatically entitles me to trust and respect."

hmmmm who else came from Texas and had that thought???? Hmmm

Anonymous Responds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476103)

I am Anonymous! And I really disapprove of the color scheme of the uniforms worn by the Austin Police. Just horrid!

Do I get a suppena now? I really want to frame it for my wall...

Actually (1)

justthinkit (954982) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476109)

Actually, the police chief wanting to out A/C's who don't like him is eroding public confidence.

He wants to fire his critics (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476197)

Let's see, people post on line anonymously, claiming to be police officers, and reporting various abuses.

The police chief "thinks some could be department employees" - translation, he thinks that they are police officers, or, at least, office employees. Implication - either they are telling the truth, or for some other reason hate his guts.

"Acevedo said he and other officers in recent months have faced allegations of sexual impropriety and suggestions that they engaged in quid pro quo behavior."

Translation : he is being accused of having sex with hookers, and letting them go free in return.

As I see it, accusing someone anonymously of these things is whistleblowing. It should be investigated, but by a third party. As it stands, it appears that the police chief is merely trying to find a legal means of finding and punishing whistleblowers. (Any trial would likely amount to the whistleblower saying, "I saw you and X, Y and Z doing this" and the police chief saying "No,you are lying, and here are officers X, Y and Z all willing to testify that you are lying, too." Good luck to the whistleblower on winning that one.)

Now, in a reasonable legal system, this would result in a special prosecutor being appointed. Pardon me for doubting that this will occur in Texas. I would be glad to be proved wrong.

Austin is more liberal than San Francisco (0, Troll)

hessian (467078) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476203)

There's no way he'd get away with this if there weren't just cause.

Impersonating public figures on the internet causes real-world repercussions.

Try posting "Death Panels slashfic" under the name "Barack Obama" and you'll see what I mean.

Not that I've done this, OF COURSE.

So will he ? (1)

hebertrich (472331) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476209)

Acevedo said he does not object to blogs critical of APD or himself--as long as they are based on factual and truthful information. "
Does it mean that the Sheriff will always gave/give/will give factual and truthfull information ?
Call me a cynical . i think NOT , he's already knee deep caught in the mud he's moving around himself :)
Note : After him coming out like this .. he's going to be criticised a hundred times more just for being
a cry baby :)

Here is one of those "Austin Police" lies (5, Interesting)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476219)

Yeah, and who decides if people are posting lies?

We live in Austin, and my 22 year old daughter was studying for her college finals, in her own duplex, and got into an argument with her boy friend. Irrationally, she called the cops, and the boy friend left.

The cops come, demand to come to look for the boy friend. She refuses, and they end up tasering her twice, arresting her for obstructing an officer in his duty and resisting arrest.

This because, when they entered her home without a warrant, they refused to let her secure her great dane and she was beside herself that they would shoot the dog (which doesn't like anyone in a uniform). Luckily, the dog did nothing.

Then for her safety, they released her at 4:30 am in downtown Austin barefoot with no ability to call anyone (you can only make collect calls to land lines, and none of her friends, nor myself, or anyone local she knows has a land line anymore). So I get a call at 5:15 when she borrows a cell phone from a construction worker.

Perhaps these are the kinds of "lies" the Austin police doesn't like posting. Personally, I wish they were lies. Just like the Grandmother that they tased on hyw 71, there are times when people act like idiots, angry and irrational. But in these situations, it is the POLICE that are supposed to act like trained professionals. If they are not in danger from a person who physically cannot harm them (a 70 year old grandmother, or a 22 year old girl screaming "don't shoot my dog!"), then they have no reason to taser some one. They are going to kill someone, and there isn't any reason for it.

Oh, I'd post the Police video from my daughter's encounter with the cops. BUT it seems they "lost" it.


Re:Here is one of those "Austin Police" lies (5, Interesting)

dex22 (239643) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476363)

Or, my experience with APD. Sitting in a restaurant, two APD cops are seated in the booth behind me. They start talking about their new laser equipment and how it's much better than the old radar equipment. One then describes how he likes to inflate speeds by, I quote, "I can easily add 20 miles to the speed of a car." Wow. Just wow. Then, they start talking about the problem of "knowing black people are guilty of something" and using "throwdowns" they'd have taken off people earlier in the evening, and the best places to keep those stashes safe without getting in trouble. Uber wow.

Obviously, in reporting this, I have something to fear from those officers, so I would be inclined to report anonymously. However, I'm not a chickenshit and am prepared to stand up in court and repeat what I heard, if forced by the police. It's very hard for them to coerce people who are willing to speak openly, and who have access to forums the size of /.

Chief needs a M I R R O R ! (2, Interesting)

redelm (54142) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476231)

Most likely it is his own actions and inactions in disciplining his subordinates that is eroding public confidence. Stifling criticism is the last refuge of incompetents.

Possibly the chief is doing this "to protect his men" and improve dept "morale" and "efficiency". However, that is corrupt -- he is sworn to protect the public, not his men. And the Texas and US Constitutions, not "efficiency". The simple fact is the Constitutions are designed to limit police efficiency to reduce inhibition and promote happiness.

Given the rather extraordinary police powers and discretion, perhaps the public should have absolute privilige with respect to criticism. Zero liability for libel and slander. Or at least and entraordinarily high standard of proof even to start a case. Someone needs to watch the watchers.

Three words (1)

vehicle tracking (1357065) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476257)

Freedom of Speech!

Looks like a threat, quacks like a threat... (1, Informative)

secondbase (870665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476303)

As a couple of comments have said, the Chief has every right to go after anyone committing libel or pretending to be an official.

But from the article:

They have since researched their legal options and decided that from now on, they might launch formal investigations into such posts, Acevedo said. He said investigators might seek search warrants or subpoenas from judges to learn the identities of the authors -- he thinks some could be department employees -- and possibly sue them for libel or file charges if investigators think a crime was committed.

"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."

Assuming the comments in the first paragraph are accurately paraphrased, the Chief certainly seems to be using the threat of legal action to quiet people who are making negative comments.

Reading between the lines (the whole purpose of /. :-), the whole thing seems more directed at his own department: he keeps mentioning department employees, and the article has a couple of mentions of regulations about posting on social networking sites. That would explain why he wants to learn identities, then possibly file charges.

The Austin PD must be a really happy organization!

According to police policy, employees are barred f (1)

Rasperin (1034758) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476309)

"According to police policy, employees are barred from criticizing or ridiculing the department" -- This needs to be changed, anyone in voting range should call state/city legistrators.

Police chief erodes public's trust in himself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29476327)

By questioning free speech rights. More news at 11, if the police let us report it.

He's a public figure. If he can't handle criticism, including possibly anonymous criticism, he needs a new job. And if the claims are genuinely libelous then he shouldn't have any trouble petitioning the courts for the warrants necessary to find out the information he needs to pursue a case. Otherwise, he should shut up before he erodes the public trust further.

I hope the chief reads Slashdot (1)

TechnologyResource (1638031) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476337)

The way I see it is that police don't have anyone looking over their shoulder. Online comments may keep him in check. He must be a real idiot to stir this pot, which will only bring him more criticism.

So, where can we post? (1)

ProfanityHead (198878) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476387)

So, where can we post?

What use is this story unless we can all enjoy the Texas tough guys coming after us!

so glad (5, Interesting)

TRRosen (720617) | more than 5 years ago | (#29476495)

Its admirable that this police chief has eliminate all drug trafficking in Austin and put an end to all violent crime thus having the time to spend reading online forums.

PS I saw him rape a busload of underage retarded nuns while high on crack the other day.

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