Police union chiefs try to silence online message board LEOAffairs.com
For nine years, LEOAffairs.com has been a rowdy mashup of local police gossip, a place where off-duty cops banter about crappy supervisors, overzealous internal affairs snoops, and incompetent chiefs (ahem, Miguel Exposito!).
That banter has gotten a bit too loose for Miami-area police unions, though. They've sparked a national boycott of the site, which they say doesn't do enough to filter "slanderous" threads.
Site owner Chip DeBlock has a different take: "The union leadership is upset that members have a place online to complain about them."
Not so, counters Alex Bello, head of Miami Beach's Fraternal Order of Police. "The threads on that site are unchecked, unverified, and often untrue, and it causes havoc for our members," he says.
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Bello, joined by leaders from Miami's and Fort Lauderdale's unions, persuaded a national convention in Salt Lake City on August 17 to back their boycott. Nationally, the FOP is now pressuring advertisers and cops to avoid the boards.
DeBlock, a Tampa-area cop, founded LEO Affairs in 2002. Now more than 500 departments have their own boards. South Florida's are among the most active — and the feistiest.
Recent posts include one by "Two Shitheads" asking why City of Miami Assistant Chiefs Richard Blom and Ian Moffett still have jobs. Another mocks a beat cop nicknamed "pot belly," and several discuss unions "bending over" for budget cuts.
DeBlock says there is some control. He appoints volunteer "moderators" from every department who check for abusive posts.
That's not enough, Bello says. "They're unpaid, voluntary moderators, and they don't do their job," he says. "I've personally called Chip dozens of times asking to remove specific threads, and it never gets done."
Two Miami Beach union members, who asked to remain anonymous, criticize Bello for not polling members about the boycott. They say the site is worthwhile. "It's an embarrassment that we're making headlines for spearheading this boycott," one officer says. "I guarantee if Alex was getting praised on these boards, he'd be the number one supporter of LEO Affairs."
It's not clear how much effect the boycott will have. Though Bello says he has talked several advertisers into dropping LEO Affairs, new posts pop up every day in South Florida. "The Miami board is still the most trafficked on our whole site," DeBlock says.
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