September 25, 2009

Sparta Tennessee Cop Investigated for Fake Subpoena

by tolles at 3:32 PM

We really love local news.

We see ourselves at Topix as part of the local ecosystem of news and community, especially in towns which have a lot of usage (We have nearly a million daily page views in Tennessee, mainly in towns just like Sparta). And, we love it when stories are sourced from Topix. But we'll be damned if we let people try to find out the real identities of our users are with a FAKE SUBPOENA.

So, we salute the folks at WMSV TV, Nashville for their investigative piece on Dale Dodson, the Sparta Tennessee police officer who tried to get the IP addresses of people who posted here on Topix with subpoenas that were never signed by a judge.

While I have a lot of respect for local law enforcement, YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE LAW, GUYS. Want to see the evidence that in trying to get information, this guy tried to get pass the whole subpoena process?

See for yourself:

We received this hand addressed envelope in the mail:

envelope.jpg

And, here's the (again, handwritten) note enclosed. Let's check out what the Sergeant had to say:

note.jpg

Sgt. Dodson kindly included a "Subpoena" document. I didn't know you could get a generic subpoena form at the local Piggly Wiggly:

subpoena.jpg

You'll note the lack of case number, clerk or judge's signature and the lack of any sort of official letterhead. Needless to say, we passed this on to our lawyers, and it looks like the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is now on the case.

So. We are happy to try and work with the police, especially when they are trying to track down a murderer. We've worked with the Secret Service, FBI and myriad local law enforcement. We also take the privacy of our users seriously, and this whole episode leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

If you're a police officer, you really should try and present a better example. Seriously.