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January 22, 2011

The Crime of Criticizing Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police ( FOP )

Status as the anniversary of Jordan Miles' beating approached:
  • the Mayor promised a City investigation
  • the Feds started looking into this
  • the City investigation decided to wait until the Feds acted
  • the District Attorney decided to wait for the Feds
  • the Citizens Police Review Board is dormant on hold, awaiting completion of the City investigation as required by law
  • the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) marched in support of the three cops
  • Jordan Miles filed a civil lawsuit in federal court

On the eve of the anniversary, an interesting press release was sent to CityPaper and at least one local blogger. The press release was a hoax, and by reports a fairly detailed hoax - the phone number purported to be an FOP phone, etc. It was an excellent fake, and several people took the bait.

The text of the fake presser was really excellent; it highlighted the contradictions between "should be" and "is". The hoax press release is on Google Docs. Maybe a lot of people will make their own copies of it. I'm just saying.

A honorable and worthy Pittsburgh blogger was duped by the hoax and posted it as news, then announced it was a fake and withdrew the original, and then twittered that he was willing to help the investigation. That's an unfortunate sidebar, and a distraction from the real issues. I think that's the nature of online reporting. BR and the Comet are tops in my book. He's done no wrong in this.

The hoax has game. The logo is a fake, and the latin "Justicia Volutabrum" seems to mean "Justice in a Pig Sty". The first letter of each word along the left column seems to spell out a vulgar message. The remaining three letters in the series seem to offer another clue, as yet unsolved: the letters T,D,J. Someone's initials, perhaps?

Which brings me to a point I'd rather not forget: Is this a Pittsburgh City Police investigation, a District Attorney investigation, or a Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) investigation?

On January 19, Pittsburgh police FOP raided Dreaming Ant, seizing a computer and a router and shutting the business down. This prompted Infinonymous to ask, How Many FOP Members Does It Take to Bring In A Router? (Dreaming Ant has since reopened.)

The CityPaper covered police statements on the Dreaming Ant / Crazy Mocha raid and seizure of a computer and router. As is often true, some of the best stuff was in the comments. F.D. was on target.

What intrigues me is that the police spokesman in the CityPaper article is also an FOP official. The same person is reported as applying for the search warrant. Isn't there a conflict of interest for an FOP official to be performing police duties on duty time (representing the City, btw) investigating an issue the FOP has a clear interest in, requesting search warrants, and resulting in closing a local business? Does this make the City responsible for damages? I think: you betcha!

When did criticizing the police and local government become a crime?
When did satire become terrorism?

I think the hoax was well played. It got the media to talk about the one-year anniversary of an onerous event that the power structure would prefer we all forget about. It has the touch of a savvy marketeer. The 'perpetrators' are people who get it.

It seems like the local discussion of these events is driven by City Paper and the BurghBlogs, with particular compliments to Infinonymous and Chris Potter. Where is the Post-Gazette and the Tribune Review? You know, the media?

On cold days like this, I wonder how people lived in this region during the Revolutionary War, and I recall the history story about Washington's troops not having shoes, leaving a bloody trail from walking in the snow with frostbitten feet. What were they fighting for?

How did it come to this, with police criminalizing criticism, with the police union setting official city policy and driving official investigations, and with civilian oversight of the city's forces non-existent?

The city's response is un-American.
The Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police ( FOP )'s response is un-American.
The mayor's response is un-American.
The DA's response is un-American.

The city, the Pittsburgh FOP, the mayor and the DA dishonor the government that a lot of good men died to bring about, and they squander the virtue of the many honorable public servants. Shame on all of them - the Pittsburgh FOP, the mayor, and the DA.

Pop quiz: Which has resulted in more police activity and newspaper coverage?
        A: Jordan Miles' beating
        B: Making the Pittsburgh FOP look silly
        C: Friday's "Ground the Jets" Steeler Rally

Here we go Steelers, here we go.

continuing - - -


Bram Reichbaum said...

You found my deleted cache. Nice. That'll happen.

"More than excited to help" was a bit of over-languaged and imprecise braggadocio on my part; I do regret that. But all the same gird yourself for more a little more "unfortunate distraction" along similar lines.

Your own extensive early blogging about anarchists during the entire run-up to the G-20 absolutely had an effect on me. And I take issue with the classification of the hoax as "satire". It had satiric elements to be sure, but on the whole that was an exercise in impersonation. The voice-mail and e-mail autoreplies speak to that.

Anonymous said...

Actual "impersonation" would require some tangible to be acquired or some money to be made. Were there responses to voicemail messages or e-mails? Did anyone respond to the likely responses from the confused media? Did you write to the address? Did you get an impersonated response? I doubt it. This is so clearly—from the logo to the content—parody, satire, mocking. Perhaps with a net to catch the funny responses. But this is not fraudulent at you imply. It is obviously nothing more than what it seems: an agitprop anniversary gimmick

ecp said...

The CPRB has not been dormant in the Miles case. By law the CPRB must step back until any criminal investigation of which police officers are the subjects has been concluded. Accordingly, the CPRB cannot actively conduct our own investigation.

Vannevar said...

I do admire the CPRB. I don't think they're dormant because they want to be. If CPRB has to wait for the investigation to be concluded, and the city puts the investigation on hold indefinitely (or at least a year), then CPRB is sidelined by external forces. CPRB can't be described as "active" in this instance. I'm open to correction, and I'd be pleased to give you the last word.

Anonymous said...


Some awesome laws you got there for the CPRB. There is not a single Citizen's Police Review Board I've ever come across that had any power of its own or did any good. And the mere fact that the law *requires* the CPRB to sit on its arse until all other investigations are complete, is not a defense of the CPRB; it is a condemnation.

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