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South Carolina Police Chief Threatens Citizen Over Facebook Comment Opposing Drug War

The Police Chief of Columbia, South Carolina apparently doesn’t like disagreement very much:

Columbia may be both the largest city in South Carolina and its capital, but that doesn’t mean the city’s interim police chief has anything better to do than threaten to hunt down and arrest citizens who post complaints on his department’s Facebook page.

After the CPD published a post bragging about the recent seizure of “$40K of marijuana” from a Columbia apartment, resident Brandon Whitmer suggested in the comments that perhaps the department’s resources would be better spent on tracking down “the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that’s not bothering anyone.”

“It’ll be legal here one day anyway,” he added.

An unidentified department employee did not appreciate Whitmer’s take on reality, and responded by insisting that police “have arrested all of the violent offenders in Five Points” and thanking him for “sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal.”

The comment concludes with the threat: “We will work on finding you.”

That comment was deleted, but it was replaced with something far more incendiary:

Not surprisingly, the response was deleted almost as swiftly as it had appeared.

Surprisingly, it was replaced by a comment claiming to be from Interim Chief Ruben Santiago taking credit for the original comment, and blaming its disappearance on “one of my staff members.”

“I put everyone on notice that if you advocate for the use of illegal substances in the City of Columbia then it’s reasonable to believe you MIGHT also be involved in that particular activity, threat?” Santiago wrote. “Why would someone feel theaten [sic] if you are not doing anything wrong?”

Here’s a screen shot of Santiago’s comment:

Santiago

 

Welcome to Columbia, South Carolina where the First Amendment need not apply.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    There are cops, and then there are pigs.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  2. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. James says:

    Over at Pope Hat they received confirmation that it was the interim chief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  4. Scott says:

    Sounds a little like this one:

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/alabama-politics-blogger-jailed-for-writings-on-ex-governor-s-son

    Not being a lawyer, I would ask if there are similarities or enough differences not to have the same issues.

    Regardless, I’m sure the Tea Party in both States will stand up for freedom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. Hal 10000 says:

    The touchiness of the Drug Warriors is one of the surest signs that their war is lost and they know it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  6. CSK says:

    Could Whitmer sue and win? The interim police chief has virtually accused him of being a criminal. My understanding of First Amendment law is that the courts regard one’s reputation as a tangible asset, and you could argue that Whitmer’s reputation has been besmirched by Santiago. There’s absolutely no evidence presented by Santiago that Whitmer is engaged in any kind of criminal activity. This is libel, as far as I can see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. Franklin says:

    I believe “reasonable suspicion” is a legal term implying that the police could do all sorts of things to the commenter, for example search him. I would love to see a judge’s take on this interim chief’s interpretation of the law, he would get laughed out of a job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Jeff Sexton says:

    There is QUITE a bit of work to be done in SC – even more than GA, and I didn’t think that was possible. But I’m out of the political game. Hopefully simply talking about issues with people I interact with can cause them to take action – believe it or not, there are SEVERAL of us around the area that while not anarchist, are certainly FAR more libertarian than the current/past regimes in SC. (I’m moving 30 miles north of downtown Columbia before this month is done.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hal 10000: The touchiness of the Drug Warriors is one of the surest signs that their war is lost the goose that laid the golden egg is about to be slaughtered and they know it.

    FTFY.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    Hal 10000 and Ozark win today’s blog.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0