The excuse was that the Baton Rouge Police Department takes complaints about its officers very seriously. That, according to BRPD spokeswoman Mary Ann Godawa, is why the “department uses unenforceable laws to gain information.”
It began with an email to the mayor about a cop asleep on the job. Maybe.
The initial complaint was somewhat innocuous — a photo pulled from Facebook of an officer apparently pretending to be asleep in his patrol car while on duty.
Whatever this means, the next step was abundantly clear.
BRPD, according to department spokesman Cpl. Don Coppola, first responded to the sender with an email suggesting that if the potential whistle-blower was 1) a regular citizen, he or she could be charged with defamation or 2) if a BRPD cop, he could be in trouble for violating the chain of command.
Charged with defamation? Criminal defamation? Of a cop? Seriously?
Defamation as a criminal charge, which involves damaging the reputation or livelihood of someone by spreading false information, has been ruled unconstitutional via “40 years of case law,” [former LSU professor Craig] Freeman said.
And when the threat didn’t produce results, the BRPD took it to the next step.
The search warrant, which was signed May 29 by 19th Judicial District Court Judge Anthony Marabella, gave permission to “seize, secure, tabulate” or “analyze” the AT&T cell phone records related to the IP address from where the email was sent. The scope included “all subscriber information,” including in-coming and out-going calls, text messages and a SIM lock code.
That would be a grossly overbroad warrant for the purpose of locating the person who sent a pic (I think) of a sleeping cop based on a claim of criminal defamation. But it’s not like the BRPD people are stupid, ya know.
[BRPD spokesman Cpl. Don] Coppola didn’t deny the charge was unconstitutional, but emphasized: “It’s still on the books.”
Any port in a storm. Even a shit storm.
BRPD commonly uses the threat of defamation charges as an investigative tool, Coppola said, but the department hasn’t, to his knowledge, ever actually arrested anyone on the charge.
And thus, no harm, no foul. It may be a threat of prosecution, but it’s an empty threat. It may be an unconstitutional law, but it’s still on the books, and so it serves as a basis for a search warrant from a willing magistrate.
After all, this is all about locating the person who sent an email of a pic of a sleeping cop (I think) to the mayor, and the police department takes complaints very seriously.
They both expressed that the reason police went to such lengths reflects the seriousness in which BRPD takes complaints against officers.
“We are held accountable for our actions (and) held to higher standards,” Godawa said. “We don’t want this story to deter people from contacting police department if they have a problem with a police officer.”
Thank the lord they have unconstitutional laws on the books to they can locate the sender of complaints through threats and search warrants, because they take complaints very seriously. After all, they are held to higher standards.
Maybe they wanted to give the sender of the email of the pic of a sleeping cop (I think) a medal.
H/T Mike Paar