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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are Cops Gathering Info On Misconduct Victims?

Screenshot of the fraudulent Injustice In Seattle site presumably created by Seattle police officers to gather information on victims of police misconduct.

Earlier this year some police officers from the Seattle Police Department created a fake Injustice In Seattle site to fool people searching for this site into revealing their personal information to Seattle police officers instead. (I reported on it at the time, but during that time there were also a lot of other posts dedicated to other subjects and it may have been drowned out by that coverage, so I thought I should mention it again.)

Their site is simple really, it merely consists of a form that prompts visitors to provide their personal information along with details about whatever complaint they might have against the Seattle Police Department. Where that information ends up, however, and what is done with it is still unknown.

Well, that site is still up and apparently still gathering information on people searching for this site, some of which may very well be victims of police misconduct trying to find information about what they can do, as many of those who write me privately often do.

This means, of course, that the fraudulent site poses the potential risk of further abuse as there's no way for us to determine what those officers are doing with the information they've been gathering. As far as we know, they may use it to prepare for potential lawsuits or they could even use that information to harass witnesses or victims of police misconduct into keeping silent about what they suffered.

Sure, there's a chance that the information they gather isn't acted on, but the problem is that there's nothing to prevent them from using the information they've gathered with that fake site to further abuse people that they have already mistreated. After all, it's not a site that's managed by the government or police department itself, so it's not subject to the rules and regulations that prevent officers from gathering information on citizens not suspected of any crimes.

Thankfully, most of the major search engines, like Google and Yahoo, have ignored the fraudulent site which reduces the potential threat of misuse, but there is one standout that still lists it. In fact, that search engine lists it above our site...

Screenshot of a search performed for "Injustice In Seattle" using Microsoft's MSN search engine showing the fraudulent site listed first.

Now, why MSN lists that site ahead of this one isn't clear, especially when that site is static and likely doesn't have the same number of visitors we do. However, it wasn't until recently that MSN even listed our site in their searches even though I registered it there before the fraudulent site was created. But it's clear that people using MSN to find this site may end up being misled into unwittingly sharing their personal information with unknown officers who can do whatever they please with that information.

Ultimately, I don't think there's anything I can do to prevent this from continuing. I can only provide warnings about that site to our visitors and hope that potential victims of police misconduct haven't been giving their information to those who may potentially be the very same officers who abused them.

While I'm still hoping that MSN eventually removes that listing from their search results... my complaints haven't been enough to convince them to do so up to this point. So there's little else that I can do at this time.

Until then, just remember that we don't ask for personal information, we intentionally remove identifiable information from stories we publish unless that information was already made public by the media or the subjects of their stories have given us permission to make that information public.

It's precisely because of the tactics police officers use to intimidate victims of misconduct that we make such efforts to protect the privacy of those who report abuse to us. If you visit a page you think is part of this site that asks for such information, it's not ours.

So be careful out there people.


Anonymous said...

Most cops are Narcissists; they are very vengeful.
Thank You for warning people.

Packratt said...

Thank you for the links, much appreciated.

I did a post a while back wondering whether a study done on bullies which found they actually get aroused by violence would also apply to cops with histories of misconduct...

Suppose narcissism probably fits in there somewhere as well for some of them.

However, I admit that I'm in the camp that thinks there are good cops out there, even though police misconduct is clearly a systemic problem in the US that is trending worse rather than better. So, just like all police accountability activists aren't cop-haters, all cops aren't narcissists.

Thank you for the comment, it's appreciated!

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