Police on the Beat, Trying to Catch…. a Blogger

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The Whitewater, Wisconsin police chief James Coan has sent two police detectives on a mission. They (and several other city employees, including the director of public works, the information technology officer, and the city clerk) are to spend their paid time trying to find out the identity of an anonymous blogger.

Is this blogger accused of breaking any laws? No. He is only accused of criticizing the police chief and his department. They’re still calling him a “suspect,” though.

The blogger writes under the pen name John Adams, and authors the blog Free Whitewater. The blog has been up and running for almost a year, and regularly criticizes government officials and policies. The writer says that police chief James Coan misuses his position.

And it seems that this “investigation” into the blogger’s identity would support that accusation quite strongly. Who in their right mind thinks it’s appropriate to use police resources and other city employees to try to track down this man’s identity? The blogger says he’s staying anonymous because protecting free speech is important… And I suspect that if his identity was known, that certain people would try blackmailing him into taking down the site.

The police chief defends himself, saying the taxpayer funded employee time was “minimal” and that he needed assess the “potential threats” from the blogger. (No, it doesn’t appear that the blogger was “threatening” anyone. Merely that the fact that he exposes government officials and acts seems threatening to the chief.)

And the police chief has already tried to intimidate one suspect who was incorrectly fingered as the blogger.

This case clearly has legal implications, as some have suggested that the police chief was deliberately trying to squelch free speech by intimidating (directly or indirectly) this blogger with his use of government resources.

One thought on “Police on the Beat, Trying to Catch…. a Blogger

  1. Tracy…

    All the more reason for our elected officials to act reasonably, not abuse position, and avoid making political enemies that cannot be shut up. The desire to run this fellow out of town must be overwhelming this police chief’s common sense.

    It isn’t the negative lies on the Internet that hurt, but the negative truths. Obviously, the chief isn’t looking very fly!

    Freedom of speech is a hallmark of our society. The power of the key stroke is very powerful indeed just as the power of the pen was in years past.

    Boss Hog types squelched speech with fear and bully tactics, but it is hard to apply a good old fashioned beating on a web-log page.

    Technology has advanced society by bringing corrupt folk and seedy practices to the light of scrutiny. The lone small town paper isn’t the only way to keep up with the news anymore. This is a good thing. Bloggers break news stories that print media avoid intentionally. Editors of small town papers are gate keepers of information and many times are entrenched in political cony-ism.

    Our national media is likewise handicapped by big business ownership. Owners of the big name media have their own agenda. Common folk are brought to anger by reports of common criminality, while most white collar crime gets a free pass. Bloggers are the new neighborhood watch on corruption.

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