Thanks to a commenter, I learned that there used to be a website called www.gtcopwatch.org. I set out to learn what I could about the site. Turns out I’m not the first person to think that the local powers that be could use a little accountability.
There’s not much left of gtcopwatch.org. A few remnants left on the world wide web. I found this in the downstairs basement corner archives of the internets:
So the site used to exist. The mission statement of the site seems laudable enough. It says:
“We believe police accountability to the community and equal rights and treatment are of utmost importance. The GT Copwatch Forum is brought to you under the aegis of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which formally confirms the universal right of every person to think and speak for themselves.”
That sounds good. I don’t disagree with any of that. You would think the police also would agree with equal rights and treatment being of utmost importance. You would think they also agree that the First Amendment is important and that people have the right to speak for themselves.
Funny thing, though. I searched for what other evidence is out there on the internet that gtcopwatch.org ever existed or what else was going on with it, and I came across this forum. The website is www.ar15.com. The website calls itself the “world’s largest firearm community.”
So there’s a forum thread on the forum portion of the website. Here’s the first post of the thread:
The poster says, “Local started a website last week aimed at monitoring local lawenforcement, and a place for people to voice their “concerns” on local lawenforcement. most of the posts in the forum a gripes about local pds and officers with talk of users survaling cops with video cameras etc.
obviously some a internet blowhards talking sh*t, and there are a couple that actually posted something possitive.”
So the poster calls the creator of GTCOPWATCH a “some a internet blowhards talking sh*t.” The poster complains that anyone would have a forum to voice a “concern” about local law enforcement. The poster goes on to express an angry emoji at the thought of the public using video cameras to keep law enforcement officers honest.
Of course, as law enforcement would tell us, if we’re not doing anything wrong, we should have no problem being monitored, right? That’s what they tell us about the role of policing in our community. But the same doesn’t go for law enforcement. They get to go to their own forum to post angry emojis at the thought of accountability to the public they supposedly serve.
One other interesting thing — the poster’s handle is rsgt513. Does that stand for Road Sargent Grand Traverse? Did anyone have a badge number 513?
Ok moving on. The next poster says not to worry about it, because the people on the GTCOPWATCH site obviously have the brain capacity of five year olds:
Another poster responds that law enforcement deserves to be shielded from “this type of hatred.” (Who said anything about hate? Only you.) He goes on to say that the person who runs GTCOPWATCH.ORG should be “brought to sense” and “arrested for stalking at the very least.”
Wow. Ok so much wow. This poster believes that someone who starts a free speech forum needs to be arrested for stalking, or worse, “brought to sense” for speech that might disagree with law enforcement?
That kind of mentality is exactly why we need to have a way to hold law enforcement accountable for doing their jobs honestly and according to law. That kind of mindset is what’s wrong with policing in Grand Traverse County. That. You just made my point. You believe you’re above criticism. You believe you’re right because you’re in power. You believe someone like me should be arrested and otherwise “brought to sense” for doing something that you don’t like.
The days when we all just trusted law enforcement because, well, they were the cops, are long over. It’s law enforcement, local and otherwise, that ruined that for themselves by betraying their positions of power. Trust is earned, and not earned by fear.
Why has Grand Traverse County resisted putting dash cams in their vehicles despite it being the year 20-fricking-18? Why no body cams either? You have money to spend on flashy new cars for the fleet, but you can’t even “afford” a single camera in the digital era? Because you don’t want them. Because you simply want dissenters to be “arrested for stalking” and “brought to sense.” And that’s my entire point.
I did some internet research on rsgt513, and I believe I’ve come up with an identity. I searched rsgt513 which led to a public email address listed in Grand Traverse County associated with a name, and that person has a previous affiliation with Grand Traverse County law enforcement. I’m not going to post who I suspect it is, because a commenter on the forum suggested that the GTCOPWATCH guy should be “arrested for stalking” and “brought to sense,” and I don’t want to find out what he thinks it means to be “brought to sense.” You can trace my steps and see if you can find a name. Took me about five minutes. Time yourself. See if you can beat my time.
So there’s this thing that public officials don’t seem to understand. They’re public officials. We have a right to talk about their work. We have a right to disagree with it. It’s frightening that they don’t think so, and that they use phrases like “mentality of five-year-olds” and “brought to sense” when they discuss people who seek to hold law enforcement accountable to do honest work. On a website called ar15.com.
Here’s a little primer you can read about the difference between private citizens and public officials. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan had a lot to say about the right of citizens to criticize their government. He said that public debate should be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” He said it’s cool if those public discussions are sometimes “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on public officials.” Freedom to criticize the government is that important. The fact that you don’t believe it’s that important is why we need websites like this one.
I want to expand this site to allow for user submissions. I believe that would improve the dialog. For the most part, the mainstream media just summarizes government-issued press releases. There are so many stories where law enforcement rushes to do the wrong thing that fall through the cracks.
The final post of the ar15.com GTCOPWATCH forum thread says that “Some people are beyond “sense”, they are ruled by emotion and/or bias.”
Wait, cops, when you talk about people who are beyond sense and ruled by emotion and/or bias, are we talking about “internet blowhards talking sh*t” with the “intelligence of the average five year old,” like me, or are we talking about you?
Love him or hate him, if there’s one thing that Donald Trump taught us, it’s that government officials and the mainstream media no longer control the dialog. Thanks to the internet, you don’t need anyone’s approval to get your message out. So here we are. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to read your comments and learn that I’m not alone in my opinions. If this website makes a difference for one person it will matter.
How can you help? Whenever one of these posts hits social media, it spreads like wildfire. I don’t remember what got what kind of traffic, but the Deb Zerafa and some of the daycare stuff has pulled in up to 1400 hits for a single article. If you agree with me, like and share. Let’s show our government that they don’t operate without scrutiny.