BEECH GROVE, Ind. — A central Indiana community’s Facebook page got a “dislike” from the ACLU for removing comments and blocking users.
On Wednesday, Beech Grove deactivated the city’s and police department’s Facebook pages. The city’s police department uses Facebook to help serve and protect and now this social media blackout could hurt crime fighting in the community.
“It’s not a good thing for the department or the citizens,” said Craig Wiley, City Attorney for Beech Grove.
Like law enforcement agencies all over the word, the Beech Grove Police Department use social media sites like Facebook to connect with citizens and to catch criminals.
“It’s been a very instrumental tool in solving crimes . We’ve had people give us tips. They’ll see a video that’s been given to us or pictures,” Wiley said.
But a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Indiana has the City of Beech Grove pulling the plug on its two pages.
The lawsuit claims the City of Beech Grove violated the freedom of speech of two people when their comments were deleted from the police department’s Facebook page.
ACLU of Indiana attorney Jan Mensz states, “When a government entity opens up a space for public comment, it cannot regulate those comments based upon someone’s viewpoint.”
City attorney Craig Wiley believes Beech Grove was within it’s rights to remove several posts.
“There were racial comments, there was cursing and profanity used. We clearly have a right to limit that speech and take those posts down,” said Wiley.
Wiley says the city decided to deactivate the pages instead of spending the money in going to court.
“In an effort to get this case resolved with the ACLU, we thought this was the appropriate action,” said Wiley.
The city is working with the ACLU, and is developing a social media policy in line with the 1st Amendment. After city leaders approve the policy, the Facebook pages could be back up in 2 to 3 months.
For now, the Beech Grove Police Department encourages people who have crime tips to call the department at 317-782-49 50 or contact Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.