(The Center Square) – Blue Springs Police Chief Bob Muenz supports the anti-doxxing legislation up for consideration in the Missouri Legislature to help protect law enforcement, though he does wonder how enforcement might work.
Senate Bill 129 “provides that if a person knowingly posts the name, home address, Social Security number, telephone number or any other personally identifiable information of any law enforcement officer, corrections officer, parole officer, or prosecuting attorney or the information of an immediate family member of such officers, he or she shall be guilty of a Class E felony,” according to the bill summary.
Another legislative measure, House Bill 59, would make doxxing of any first responder a Class A misdemeanor.
Some officers, who generally have their names on the front of their uniforms, found themselves victims of doxxing as they worked during days of protests about George Floyd in the Kansas City area.
“If you don’t have your name, they want to know what you are hiding,” Muenz, who also serves as president of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association board of directors, told The Center Square.
With an officer’s name and photo, people could do an internet search to pull up public records and any information the officer may have posted online, including family photos and homes. The protestors can then confront the officers with printouts of photos, as some in the Floyd case experienced.
“Alternatively, on social media, if you’re not cognizant of what you’re putting out there even if you try to protect yourself as best you can, there’s still a possibility that your information gets out there,” Muenz said.
People may search for any financial information, email addresses or social media accounts of officers. Then they publish that personal information with malicious intent, which is known as doxxing.
“You can’t serve the community effectively if you are worrying about your home front. If you know your home front is being taken care of, then you can go out and serve the community,” Muenz said.
The legislation intends to deter doxxing with a promise of punishment if a police agency can investigate and discover who has tried to use officers’ personal information against them.
“I have some questions about how you would enforce it, how it would be investigated, who’s going to investigate. Like any other crime, it’s up to the jurisdiction,” he said.
Law enforcement personnel can be endangered by doxxing actions, Muenz said.
“If you have officers walking off the frontline during protests because they’re worried about their families or their house or something going on during multiple days of protests where they don’t have their mind on the job, you have issues. You have safety issues,” he said.
Supervisors would then have to replace them with other officers. If some sort of punishment was possible, that might help stop doxxing for officers.
Muenz said he hasn’t experienced doxxing himself.
The Missouri Police Chiefs Association, which he leads as president of the board of directors, supports the legislation.