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Sheriff concerned over activity on community Facebook page

Posted at 5:18 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-08 05:04:46-04

SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. — A local sheriff says members of a Facebook group are threatening his deputies and other people.

He told Fox 47 he wants the page investigated for crossing the line from free speech to criminal activity.

Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole says the page has been on his department's radar for a while. He says people are posting content that's against the law.

"if you look at the law, when you have conduct that is harassing, threatening, intimidating intentionally, then it becomes illegal and that's exactly what they're doing," Sheriff BeGole said.

"Be on the lookout," "en route to jail," and recently arrested people can all be found on the Facebook page with over 15,000 members. But what you can also find on it are posts containing information taken from police scanners, along with posts and comments making fun of people.

"We get multiple complaints right now for people who are afraid to call 911. They're afraid that their addresses will be transmitted over police radios and then these people will then use it to make jokes and humiliate them over their unfortunate and emergency situations," he explained.

Sheriff BeGole says people in the Facebook group post false information about him and members of his department.

"Even members of my department have received phone calls, death threats since this has started up. There's people stopping them at their house taking pictures, there's people posting suggestions that if a member of our department is seen, that people should throat punch them."

Fox 47 reached out to the page, that we can't name, for some answers.

They said they didn't want to go on camera, because moderators wanted to stay anonymous. But they said the information they post can be found elsewhere and not just on their page. They say they delete comments and warn people if things 'get out of hand.'

They said the page exists to keep the community informed and give people a voice.

The sheriff says he gets that, and doesn't want the page taken down, he just wants them to follow the law.

"We're not trying to step on anybody's First Amendment rights. That's the beauty of America. People have a right to an opinion and we respect that, but when you intentionally put the false information out there, the blatant lies designed to harass, intimidate, or threaten've crossed the line and that's illegal," Sheriff BeGole said.

A person found guilty of harassing, terrorizing, or threatening someone online can face a $5,000 fine and up to two years in prison.

A spokesperson from FACEBOOK told Fox 47 the following:

“The sharing of personal information is not permitted on our platform and we have removed multiple instances of such information being shared. As we find similar instances, we will also remove those.”

The sheriff's department is hoping to get another police agency to investigate the page.

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