The Chief
November 18, 2005

Want Cops’ Personal Data Off Internet

Bill Also Shields Judges

By Reuven Blau

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch and U.S. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner last week urged the U.S. Senate to pass legislation designed to keep personal information about police officers and judges off the Internet.

The Secure Access to Justice and Court Protection Act would make it illegal for individuals to intimidate law-enforcement officers by posting on Web sites data such as what car they drive and where their children go to school.

‘Public Harassment’

“It is clear that the information infrastructure has made remarkable things possible,” Mr. Weiner said at the Nov. 7 press conference outside the 13th Precinct in Gramercy Park. “But it has also made it possible for those who seek to harass and intimidate law-enforcement officials to do it quite easily and quite publicly.”

The House of Representatives passed the bill last week, and the Senate is expected to introduce a companion piece of legislation soon. According to Mr. Weiner, President Bush has indicated that he will sign the proposed bill, which also calls for additional funding for court security.

The American Civil Liberties Union is opposed to the legislation, noting that it includes provisions for mandatory minimum sentences in specific cases and denies inmates on death row for killing law-enforcement officers the ability to appeal their cases in Federal court.

Greg Nojeim, the acting director of the ACLU, stressed that his organization recognizes and understands the need to protect law-enforcement officers. “We also understand that these efforts should not be done in a way that undermines the basic constitutional principle of habeas corpus and having access to Federal court,” he stated in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill is widely supported by national law-enforcement groups. Backers of the measure have cited the slayings of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother in Chicago. “This is not a hypothetical,” Mr. Weiner said. “Authorities discovered that a Web site had posted the judge’s home address, family photographs, and violent threats against her,”

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, noted that officers have been targeted by vengeful drug dealers and other criminals in the past. “This is not something we just talk about may happen,” he observed. “We cannot be asking New York City Police Officers to put themselves between the miscreants that try to tear down our society and the good citizens of this city, and not give them the mechanisms to protect themselves."

Naming Kids’ Names

Mr. Weiner noted that last year a Queens man previously found guilty of harassing a cop created a Web site revealing NYPD officers’ addresses, phone numbers, hangouts, and children’s names.

Robert Mladinich, the Sergeants Benevolent Association communications director, said that he had personal information about himself posted on a similar Web site two years ago. “I must have gotten 30 calls in two days,” from concerned friends and family members who discovered that the information was being posted, Mr. Mladinich said. “I was very disheartened to find out this was not illegal.”

Mr. Weiner said that information about himself has also been posted on the Web. “Since I’ve targeted this effort, the posting on me has gotten quite prodigious,” he remarked.

He pointed out, though, that elected officials make their contact information and schedules available to the public. “But when you are a Police Officer, information about the comings and goings of your family …. that information is being put on the Internet for one reason: to intimidate, and in some cases harm those officers.”

“I can pride myself on being a fervent civil libertarian,” Mr. Weiner added. “But if the Internet is going to be used as a tool to intimidate and harm Police Officers and their family, the line has been drawn and crossed, and we in Congress need to stop it.”