Social media posts, comments face police scrutiny

Social media posts, comments face police scrutiny

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As protesters took to the streets to voice their opinions about police shootings across the country, some people took to the internet - and police aren't taking their comments lightly.

In Bossier City, police arrested Kemonte Gilmore, 19, after they said he posted a video holding a gun and threatening an unknowing police officer nearby.

"He was talking about wanting to shoot the officer, wanting to kill the officer. He was also talking about some of the recent shootings that happened around the country," said Sgt. Brian Griffith with Bossier City Police Department.

In Detroit, police arrested four people for comments they made online. According to Detroit Police, some comments included a call to "kill all white cops" and another idolized the Dallas shooter.

"These individuals are in social media, making threats regarding this suspect, this violent terror suspect, that's what he is. That's a problem. So a threat on white officers, that's a specific threat, is a threat on all officers," Detroit Police Chief James Craig told reporters in Detroit.

However, Marjorie Esman, the director of the ACLU of Louisiana, thinks those arrests may be premature.

"That is not a threat. 'I am going to kill a police officer by going to such and such a street corner where I know they will be.' That might be a threat," Esman said.

Esman said non-specific comments without a clear and present danger - just like most hate speech - typically gets First Amendment protection.

"Anything short of that is First Amendment protected speech. You don't have to like it, it may be ugly, it may be nasty, it may be mean, but unless it is a specific plan that can be carried out, it is legally protected speech," Esman said.

Former FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jim Bernazzani agrees that there is strong protection for comments like that, but he doesn't think police should ignore those internet commenters.

"Law enforcement should move into the undercover role of finding out who is trolling on these websites, on these social media pages, to see if, in fact, they can identify that person and through legal means, check pre-existing databases to see if we have a potential problem," Bernazzani said.

The four people arrested in Detroit have not been charged with a crime related to the comments. Gilmore faces a charge of public intimidation.

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