In what I would call one of the more bizarre uses of police power that I’ve seen, at least as it relates to the case of Ferguson, a St. Louis police officer is under investigation after calling the employer of realtor Leigh Maibes. Maibes had fired off a series of tweets about the tragedy in Ferguson, and that apparently earned her boss a phone call from police.
Maibes has also released a call of her confronting the officer over the phone:
In the call with officer Keith Novara, Mables tells the officer that she feels like she is being intimidated by the police. Novara confirms that he made the call, but said that some of Maibes’ tweets were “inciteful” and wanted to give Maibes’ real estate broker a “heads up.” Meanwhile, Officer Novara has obtained a lawyer and is trying to say that the purpose of the phone call was to “set the record straight.”
This is, without a doubt, one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen a police officer do. It’s also one of the dumbest. The St. Louis area is clearly undergoing some very significant challenges in terms of the relationship between the police and the general public. For an officer to use his police power to call the employer of someone saying mean things against police on Twitter strikes me as a terrible use – and probably abuse – of his power. A quick look at Maibes’ profile reveals quite a few tweets about Ferguson & Shaw. However, a question: so? Do we now live in a country that is not protected by the first amendment? Since when did it become a police matter to try to call the boss of someone who was firing off critical tweets? In fact, if that happened to every single person who sent off tweets like this, how on earth would the police have time to do ANYTHING?
The only reason I can think that Maibes’ tweets would be inappropriate is if they specifically made threats or called for violence. However, if that were the case, the appropriate and perfectly reasonable and legal course of action for police would have been to file chargers…not call Maibes’ boss. There’s just no way, in my mind, that such a call was appropriate, and this seems to me to be an attempt to silence a critical citizen.