An Alabama police department whose chief resigned following a series of bombshell reporting allegedly monitored social media posts and targeted critics with harassment.
Brookside police chief Mike Jones stepped down after AL.com reported accounts of harassment and intimidation by officers, and state officials have called for investigations and new legislation to limit small-town police practices, and the controversy has shaken loose old complaints about retaliation against the department's critics.
“The person threatened me with an arrest if I did not take down my Facebook pictures and posts of their police officers, stop sending emails to the local politicians, as well as others, and show them (Brookside police) that I understand law enforcement practices," said Michelle Jones, who got a call this week from the state attorney general's office about a 2019 complaint she had filed.
Jones was ticketed in May 2019 for running a stop sign, which she insists she didn't do and also claims was outside Brookside jurisdiction, and after paying the $160 fine she began complaining to public officials, a local TV station and Jones, who defended the stop outside of town -- but the situation escalated after she warned of a "police trap" a few weeks later on Facebook.
“Detective Johnson had called and asked that I come to the Brookside Police Department to talk to them," she told the attorney general's office. "After I told him that I would not, he reported that they have two warrants for my arrest. He stated that I issued threats, incited a riot, and slandered the Brookside Police Department in my Facebook posts. He reported that his Police Chief was mad.
Others have reported similar experiences, including Alabama Senate candidate Lisa Ward, who said Jones tried to intimidate her after sharing a report on the department's ticketing practices on Facebook, and a Brookside man told AL.com that he was pulled over again a couple of days after complaining on Facebook about his own ticket for running a stop sign.
"The chief’s pretty upset about that post you put on Facebook," the man said an officer told him. "Any more backlash like that towards his police department and it’ll be far worse than a ticket."
The man, who didn't want to have his name published because he still fears retaliation, said he was in "pure shock."
“I just stared at him,” the man said. “I was just looking at him like, so this is what this stop is about?”