The internet age has brought a powerful new trend: anonymous police message boards. I predict these forums exploding in popularity once people realize what they offer.
For the reality-hungry, there are salacious tidbits. For the politically aware, the biggest questions of the day are explored. In between are the strange, poignant, convoluted things cops experience every day.
Most importantly, these boards give citizens a way to find out what’s really going on in their home towns. Which officers would other officers warn you about if they could? Who is likely to beat up your son, or violate your daughter’s rights on a traffic stop? Who is wasting your tax money, on what, and why? And of course who’s sleeping with who? It’s must-see internet.
Below are some selected highlights from www.rentontalk.com, the anonymous “safe speech zone” for the beleaguered officers of Renton, Washington. (My notes are in brackets.) You might want to make some popcorn.
Inside scoop on which officers their co-workers dread working with:
“Brett Ferguson was FIRED and now he is WORKING at RPD again. He was fired for something other than what he should have been fired for. Ferguson, prior to being fired was notoriously known for making unlawful traffic stops, conducting unlawful searches, with the end result of making unlawful arrests. This was so well known, no one wanted to be around him when he pulled over any car. Yet, instead of appropriate discipline, the internal investigation was flawed from the beginning. He was terminated and sued to get his job back (and he did). So know, you have an officer that has substantially violated constitutional rights of many citizens, still patrolling the streets.”
This response shows the conflict dynamic these officers are working in:
“So what if an officer is agressive. hes getting dirtbags off the street. A few rights violated here N there are the cost of doing busines. I think you people need to get a life… Grow the F up and get a life. Welcome to the big league”
This apparently does not represent a majority opinion. A subsequent response:
“I think the point is that the department went after Mr. Fuddlesticks [the creator of anonymous cartoons lampooning an unnamed city and its police department] as if he was a mass murderer, using all forms of police power. this included writing a search warrant without having cause that a crime occurred.
hurt feelings is not a crime. internal policy violations is not a crime. creating an anonymous cartoon is not a crime. writing a search warrant without cause is a crime. shredding public documents is a crime.”
Many of the topics that come up are hybrids; on the one hand, they’re embarrassing, and on the other hand, if true, they have real implications for the taxpayers.
For example, multiple posts depict the mayor of Renton as a police and firefighter wannabe who allegedly had more than $40,000 worth of emergency equipment added to his personal SUV.
“The mayor is beyond being a police groupie. His personal vehicle was outfitted with state of the ar[t] everything from scanners to undercover emergency lights and sirens all at his request actually at his demand. And he has showed up at incidents wearing a fire mans jacket and helmet.”
This more detailed account:
“Here is a tip, if you want to have a laugh riot make a public document request for all correspondence related to the instal[l]ation of north of $40k in LE [law enforcement] communications [equipment] and lights and all of the [accoutrements] by the city motor pool on the mayor’s personal vehic er, oh I forgot, the City’s “mobil[e] command post.” Look, this is the Mayor’s personal vehicle it is used by him exclusively, any of you who want to sat that Milo [the police chief] is not a puppet are not paying attention. The mayor is pulling all the strings, the city’s [Public Information Officer] that was hired by him personally is his personal spokesmouth too. If I was just a little closer to retirement I would make the document request myself.”
And this one:
“Here’s a hint, there Dog, the Renton Fire Dept has someone assigned to watch for Hizzoner should he make an appearance on the scene of a response, and intercept him before he has a chance to meddle. This following the debacle he caused after showing up and directing personnel from other depts who responded to a fire at an unfinished apartment complex.
And of course some of it is just plain funny and/or embarrassing:
“Paul Summers, a SERGEANT. Here is a guy that is such a selfish work of art, yet so unprofessional, that even he is promoted. … A guy with such low standards, he TAPED his uniform patches on instead of having them sewn on. How’s that for professional. Part of the RPD Brat Pack, him and his buddies coupled with beer caused [mayhem] wherever they went.”
Of course in this sort of forum, even the salacious stuff has implications for the general public:
“Greg Wilson, aka, “the one case detective” was investigated for having sex in his POV in the parking lot of an off duty gig with his girlfriend (his wife must have been busy at home) who was a King County Prosecutor. She was assigned to his one and only case. A witness from the business that was paying for police security saw the ‘rig rocking’ and a bit more. Lucky for Greg, his older brother Brian was a Lt so his internal was unsustained! [He was cleared by internal ::ahem:: affairs]“
Needless to say, not everyone is thrilled. You should be.
This trend is mostly popular among the police right now, though it could — and probably will — take off among firefighters and paramedics, too. It has massive healing potential, for the individual, the department, the community, and ultimately the country. Some people view these boards as a negative, where people go to take anonymous potshots at co-workers and gripe about their bosses. Others see the positive benefits of allowing some of the most stressed-out people in our society to safely vent and find support from colleagues in other departments. The benefits of transparency in policing for the general public speak for themselves.