BCPBA News

How To Protect Yourself From Doxing

CBS News reported that after the fatal shooting of a man by a LAPD police officer, someone posted the officer’s private information online, including his home address, phone number, and other personal details including his child’s school location.

This practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual is referred to as doxing (or doxxing) and is typically done with malicious intent. The information published can be anything from home addresses to vehicle identification to social media accounts to credit card and banking information. Though technically legal, as long as the information is publicly available, Doxing can still fall under state criminal laws if the information obtained is used for infiltrating private data, financial gain, stalking, harassment or identity theft. Doxing is becoming enough of a concern that the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) have issued warnings to law enforcement and public officials.

Protecting Yourself And Your Family
American Military University (AMU) recently hosted a webinar on this topic as part of its Law Enforcement Webinar Series. Presenter James Deater, who spent more than 23 years as a Maryland State Trooper specializing in wiretaps and other forms of electronic investigation techniques, provided advice for how officers can protect themselves.

“Any officer could end up in a situation where you do everything right in accordance with agency policy, but the incident is captured on video and it looks wrong to the public. It happens all the time and as soon as your name is released to the public, you become a target,” said Deater. “You may not be able to stop it, but you can at least make it difficult for people to find your private information.”

Here are some recommendations Deater made about how to protect your personal information:

  • Be aware of security and privacy settings on your accounts. Be selective about who you share information with and limit how often you post about your location (especially if it’s your home).
  • Routinely update computers, devices, and software with the latest security fixes.
  • Use anti-virus software.
  • Pay close attention to links and attachments in email messages. Do not open anything that looks even remotely suspicious. If it’s legitimate, the person can always send it again.
  • Add protection to your email, social media and online bank accounts using two-factor authentication techniques.
  • Choose unique, strong passwords for each of your accounts and change your passwords regularly.
  • Remember that anything you post on social media might be used against you. Once it’s online, you cannot take it back.

Request Information Be Removed
During the webinar, Deater discussed ways that officers can proactively remove personal information from the dozens of websites that sell this information. He included specific details about what forms to submit, what identification documents to send, and how long it will take for information to be removed. However, some of this information is law enforcement-sensitive and cannot be included in this piece. If you are a police officer, you can request to view the recorded webinar by sending an email (using your agency email address) to James Deater (JDeater@apus.edu).

Here are a few sites to consider removing your information from:

  • Google Earth – This free software allows individuals to access street views of locations. Deater recommends that officers submit a request that Google blur out your home, house number, vehicle and any other identifying details shown.
  • SPOKEO
  • PIPL
  • ZoomInfo
  • Whitepages
  • CheckPeople
  • BeenVerified
  • Intelius

It can take a considerable amount of time and effort to properly submit the forms, especially if officers are also removing their spouses and children from such databases. However, the time it takes to remove this information is worth it to protect, or at least deter, a malicious attack on an officer and his or her family.

While the threat of doxing for public officials and law enforcement officers is largely a function of poor personal security, the FBI has drastically increased its approach in reactively addressing all security threats, following a series of high-profile and tangentially related attacks on Sony and the Office of Personnel Management.

Leischen Stelter is the editor of American Military University’s premier blog, In Public Safety. She writes about issues and trends relevant to professionals in law enforcement, corrections, fire services, emergency management and national security.

Florida Legislature Puts The Spotlight On Law Enforcement Officers & Their Families

Wednesday afternoon, the Florida House of Representatives led by Speaker Steve Crisafulli, passed the final two issues of what has become a tremendously important package of bills aimed at protecting those who protect us. The 2016 Florida Legislature will be remembered for a number of events, but, I believe, one legacy it will leave behind is showing real compassion for our public safety professionals and their families.

Here’s what we accomplished:

The Senate took up SB 7022, which exempts depictions of killing of a law enforcement officer from the public record. They passed it and sent it over to the House. The House quickly placed the issue on the calendar and passed it unanimously yesterday afternoon. The bill has already been sent to the Governor for his signature. PBA spoke to the Governor’s staff last night and expressed our support for his approval of this important issue. We thank the Speaker and Senate President for allowing this issue to continue to move despite some hiccups along the way.

The House also took up and passed SB 7012 which provides an increase to the FRS Death Benefits for Special Risk Employees killed in the line of duty. This legislation increased the benefit to survivors for both investment plan and pension plan employees to 100% of the salary of the officer at the time of death. The legislation is retroactive to September 1, 2013 in order to include the widow of Orange County Deputy Sheriff Scott Pine who was left with three children and no monthly salary benefit from her husband’s investment account. Deputy Pine’s wife, Bridget, has been a tireless advocate for this legislation and she deserves our respect and gratitude for standing firm against what appeared to be difficult odds. I also want to personally thank several people involved with the issue by name (in no particular order) – Senator Jeremy Ring; Sara Carroll Glassner, Florida Sheriff’s Association; Captain Dennis Strange, Orange County Sheriff’s Office; Representative Rene Plasencia; Senate President Andy Gardiner; Speaker Steve Crisafulli; Representative Matt Caldwell; Joe McVaney, Staff Director Senate Government Oversight & Accountability Committee; and Representative Mike Hill.

Up next, the Florida Senate passed a Joint Resolution HB 1009 placing a constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot asking the voters to provide a homestead exemption to first responders who are totally and permanently disabled in the line of duty. The amendment requires at least 60% approval in order to be placed into the Florida Constitution. Thank you to Senator Joe Negron and Representative Larry Metz.

The Legislature also moved legislation SB 436 making a threat against law enforcement officers and their families a felony terroristic threat. We thank Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco for bringing this issue forward. Senator Wilton Simpson and Representative Jimmie Smith were the sponsors and we greatly appreciate their support.

Finishing what we started last year, HB 93 establishing statewide guidelines for body worn cameras has been sent to the Governor. This legislation does not mandate body cameras, but it does create uniform guidelines and policies for agencies utilizing body cameras. We thank Senator Chris Smith and Representative Shevrin Jones for being great partners on this issues.

Finally, the Legislature approved the creation of a Career Development Plan workgroup HB 5003 for the sole purpose of creating a step plan for the sworn law enforcement officers of the Highway Patrol, Law Enforcement Officer, Lottery, and FDLE Special Agent bargaining units represented by the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA).

Thank you for following our Capitol Report this year. We had a excellent session. I hope each of you are encouraged by the support we received on our issue this year and, always please stay safe.

Please look for the next Florida PBA’s Florida COPS magazine in the mail with much more in depth coverage of each one of these issues.

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending March 4

This week was supposed to be dominated by budget conference meetings, but there has been very little of it so far. However, we fully expect conferencing to happen with more frequency as the weekend nears. The days of regular committee meetings are over and we now have full floor sessions in both chambers. Next week will be more of the same.

Right now the most important event of the session is budget conference. The budget is the only reason why the Legislature must meet each year. Conference is where the two chambers work out the differences between the respective spending proposals.

For the Florida PBA, the conference is where potential pay raises, the career development plan, and state group health insurance premiums will be decided. The conference process decides every issue we have with money attached to it so we shifted our efforts early in the session to focus on conferencing in order to put our issues in the best possible posture.

As it stands today, pay raises for certain groups (perhaps all of our bargaining units) are still in play, the Senate placed the career development plan into its budget offer (keeping it in play), and the state group health insurance premiums look to stay the same (no increases). None of this is etched in stone and even if the Legislature agrees, we have to survive a gubernatorial veto. Remember the governor vetoed the forestry firefighters pay raise last year (a move we believe is in violation of collective bargaining rights).

As for the noneconomic issues, we have several bills in place to pass. The Legislature seems poised to make terroristic threats against law enforcement officers and their families a felony (SB 436 and HB 257). The LEO body worn camera bills (SB 418 and HB 93) appear likely to pass (remember this legislation does not mandate body cameras). Also, the public record exemption preventing the release of videos and photos depicting the killing of a law enforcement officer (SB 7022) will move to the Senate floor today. The House can then pick up the Senate bill and pass it.

Florida Retirement System legislation seems to remain in play. HB 7107 has two very important provisions that the Florida PBA supports and one provision that we do not support. We have been lobbying to separate the provisions enhancing the death benefits survivors and allowing investment plan retirees to return to the FRS investment plan. So far the two chambers are at odds with each other over these provisions. We remain hopeful.

That is all for this week. Follow our emails for updates.

Until next week, may God bless you and please stay safe.

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending February 26

The session continued this week with extremely packed committee agendas and days long floor action. The Legislature is, as of this writing, not in agreement on spending allocations for the budget. Although, word from the Capitol late last evening was that the Senate and House were close to achieving consensus and, perhaps, ready to conference this weekend.

We had a good crowd up from Palm Beach and Dade this week: PBA President John Rivera, Palm Beach President John Kazanjian, PBA Treasurer Ernie George, Dade County Executive Board Member Robert Davis, Palm Beach County Executive Board members Kevin Igo and Greg Allen, and Dade County PBA member Darryl Hall. They helped us reach out to several key lawmakers this week as we made our case on our remaining issues.

We publicly supported SB 7022 which will prevent the expiration of a public records’ exemption for the depictions of killing of a law enforcement officer. We stood in support of SB 436, a proposal that makes threats against law enforcement officers and their families a felony terroristic threat. The body camera legislation SB 418 cleared its final committee in the Senate this week so both bills are on the chamber floors. We feel strongly that each of these issues will pass the full legislature by session’s end.

The House passed its latest version of FRS pension reform (HB 7107). Although we are not supporters of all three provisions within the reform package, we have asked that two of the provisions be included in a compromise (if one can be achieved). We support allowing retirees and those who took a withdrawal from their investment accounts to be allowed to be re-enrolled in the investment plan if that employee is reemployed by an FRS employer. We also support either plan (House or Senate) to increase the FRS death benefits for employees killed in the line of duty. We do not support changing the default from the pension plan to the investment plan for new employees after July 1, 2017. In our opinion, keeping the default to the pension plan is critical to the overall health of the pension system and, therefore, we cannot support a change.

Finally, the budget conferencing process holds a major issue still on the table for the PBA. First and foremost, we have been very encouraged by the legislative leadership’s response to our career development plan for State Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol, FDLE Special Agents and Lottery Law Enforcement. Our goal for the career development (a step plan) proposal is to get a resolution into the budget during conference. Let me offer everyone concerned about this issue a few additional thoughts: 1) information about budget conference is always difficult to broadcast because so much happens on weekends and in the late evenings with long breaks in between meetings (follow our emails alerts); 2) the legislature always (always, always, always) decides employee issues like raises and impasse resolution at the end of conference which only heightens the tension; 3) we have spent the last two weeks reintroducing our plan to the legislative leadership and legislative staff who deal directly with our subject matter. Our plan should be very fresh on their minds and we will be there to remind them of the message as conference gets under way. Like I stated last week and countless other times, we are consistently applying the necessary pressure to put this conference issue over the top.

That is all for this week. Until next week, may God bless you and please stay safe.

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA

The Florida Capital Report For The Week Ending February 12

Sadly, our country has experienced another deadly wave of attacks on the brave men and women who wear the badge. Five officers killed in four days. Words cannot express our collective grief. Please stay alert and look after each other.

Despite widespread neglect by far too many of our elected leaders (not to mention cultural and business leaders), the Florida Legislature is making strides to further protect and honor the sacrifices of law enforcement officers.

This week legislation enhancing the penalty for terroristic threats against law enforcement officers and their families (SB 436) advanced through the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice.

The Senate and House proposed separate increases to the FRS death benefit for the survivors of an officer killed in the line of duty (more information to follow).

Finally, HB 1009, which attempts to add a homestead tax exemption for first responders totally and permanently injured in the line of duty, passed the full House of Representatives.

There were a few legislative wrinkles thrown at us this week, too.

Our busy Monday did not go as planned. Neither, the career development plan, nor the protection of a murder witness legislation were heard in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The panel took up a proposal to address the method by which Florida sentences an individual to death. Recently, Florida’s method was ruled unconstitutional. As you can imagine the discussion was lengthy. The good news is that both of our priority bills were rescheduled to be heard on Tuesday, February 16.

Additionally, the long rumored FRS pension reform plan (HB 7107)that the Florida House of Representatives desires to achieve was heard in the House’s State Affairs Committee. There are three provisions contained within the reform package:

  • Allowing employees who previously left the investment plan and took a disbursement the ability to return to employment and re-enroll in the investment plan. This provision is limited to employees who were previously enrolled in the investment prior to an employment separation and disbursement. Former pension plan retirees will not be allowed to enroll into the investment plan.
    • Increasing the investment plan death benefit for survivors to an equal amount to the pension plan death benefit (half of the officer’s salary at the time of death). Currently, the investment plan death benefit only provides the survivor with the contents of account at the time of death.
      • Changing the default option for newly hired employees after July 1, 2017 to the investment plan instead of the pension plan. The new employee will still have the option to choose the pension plan during the first 8 months of employment. The once in a career switch option will also still be available to the new employees.
      • Although the bill does contain two important improvements to the overall plan, we are not supporting the legislation at this time. Our concerns about the economic viability of the investment plan given the incredibly low contribution levels far outweigh our support for the death benefit provision and the re-enrollment option. We are hoping to remove the default provision from the bill. Fortunately, the Senate has passed separate death benefit and re-enrollment bills that do not contain the default provision. HB 7107 passed the committee by an unusually close 10-8 vote. Negotiations are underway.

        We thank our elected leaders from Dade County PBA and Southwest Florida PBA who came to help us lobby this week. From Dade County PBA – PBA President John Rivera, Executive Board Member Pablo Lima, and Executive Director Blanca Greenwood. From Southwest Florida PBA – President Mick McHale who is also the President of the National Association of Police Organizations.

        Here’s a brief summary of Senate’s death benefit legislation:

        First Responder Death Benefits – SB 7012 by Senator Jeremy Ring.
        The legislation will increase the surviving benefit for a spouse, or children of a special risk member killed in the line of duty to 100% of the salary at the time of death. Currently, a spouse receives 50% of the salary at the time of death if the officer was enrolled in the pension plan. Investment plan employees were not able to provide the salary benefit to their survivors. The legislation allows the surviving spouse of an investment plan employee the option of taking the 100% salary benefit in lieu of the investment plan option. The investment plan option provides the survivor with the contents of the account at the time of death.

        The Florida Senate unanimously passed this legislation with all 40 Senators signing on as co-sponsors. It was a very powerful moment of support for the family of Orange County Deputy Sheriff Scott Pine (His wife and children were in the chamber’s gallery) who was killed in the line of duty two years ago.

        That is all for this week. Until next week, may God bless you and please stay safe.

        Matt Puckett
        Executive Director
        Florida PBA

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