You’ll have to come and get me, coppers!

I just got an email from the campus police — they want me to come in for questioning. I’m in trouble now!

I am investigating a complaint levied by a student group in which several posters were taken down in the tunnel between the Science Building and Student Center. During this investigation your name has come up as someone with involvement in the incident. I was hoping that you would be willing to come to the police department office to speak with me regarding this matter. This is voluntary and you are under no obligation to answer my questions but I am giving you the opportunity to respond to some of the things that I have found. Thank you for your time.

This is all about the hate signs posted by the College Republicans all over campus. They have been a bone of contention: they’ve been torn down, put back up again, new signs put up, people have been scribbling messages like “Fuck you” on them, it’s been a roller coaster of low key stupidity.

Apparently, the College Republicans/North Star contingent have been telling the police they suspect it’s all my fault — which is silly, there’s a broad consensus among most of the students and faculty that these trolls are posting garbage — and trying to get the police to pester me. I’ve been here before, gone into the campus police station, been questioned, and then released because they had absolutely no grounds for the accusation. That then led to Comma making incessant demands that they release the criminal investigative data for [my] vandalism of a UMM newspaper, so it really wasn’t worth it. My response this time was short and sweet.

Oh, not this nonsense again. These students have no evidence that I’ve done anything, so no, I am not at all interested in giving their claims a moment of my time.

On second thought, maybe I should talk to the police about this ongoing baseless harassment.


  1. davidc1 says

    I knewed it all the time you were a trouble maker ,isn’t there something in the christian manual about bearing false
    witness ?

  2. azpaul3 says

    Maybe your campus cops, knowing the past of false accusations by CR/North Star against you, would be willing to talk to you in your office or lab instead of in their station. A friendly visit. No mistaken appearance of interrogation that CR/North Star might use to smear you.

  3. says

    Nah, not even that. Some logic-impaired Republican declaring that because I announced my contempt for a stupid sign, I must be the one vandalizing them, is not grounds for suspicion.

    These are the same guys who carp endlessly about Free Speech™, which makes it even more annoying.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    … to respond to some of the things that I have found.

    About that wording… It makes it sound like the police have located some actual evidence, not just heard baseless accusations. But if that were the case, the interrogation would certainly not be entirely voluntary. If this issue refluxes again you should chide them on their wording.

  5. says

    This is not legal advice for any situation. This is general commentary drawing primarily from extensive experience as an investigator.

    Investigators — especially those who don’t have graduate degrees — tend to be extremely careless in wording requests for witnesses to come in. The key words are “subject” and “target”: If you see those, get counsel now. If you see “person of interest,” demand clarification as to whether you are considered a subject or target; if so, get counsel. If they refuse to clarify, get counsel.

    Most unions — especially regarding private inquiries (and, technically, the “campus police” is probably a private inquiry) — will provide counsel for these situations. And it seems to me that getting the AAUP (or its local) involved might be an even better deterrent against the next frivolous and harassing “inquiry.” The ACLU might also be interested, although there’s also a potential conflict.

    Or you could send Shelob down in your place. We’ll let herrrrrr do it…

  6. marcoli says

    I would defer to your sense on this. but if it was me I would go in and have a chat with the police. If nothing else, to establish the general understanding that you wouldn’t do this sort of thing and that those ultraconservative jerks are just harassing you. Again.

  7. Duckbilled Platypus says

    I guess that reporting someone for a suspected crime is the budget version of the SLAPP suit.

    I’m also surprised that on your side of the pond, someone can call the police on you for taking down a poster. Allegedly taking it down, even.

    One thing::

    These students have no evidence that I’ve done anything

    For someone who doesn’t know you and has to figure out what might have happened by what people blurt out, it might read as:

    They have no evidence, nobody saw me!

    I guess I’d have worded it differently, but then again, I’m not the one for whom this is the second time around. I suspect you’ll get some follow-up questions, so even more time to waste.

  8. methuseus says

    At least they seemed to word it nicely, and were very clear that you didn’t need to come in. They probably have a mandate to investigate all leads, just to be equal. They’re probably happy with your response and knowing you.

  9. Louis says

    1) I struggle to see why your police didn’t jog the complaint on.

    “Missing papers, sir? Be a good lad, fuck yourself off and print some more.”

    “Someone removed your posters, sir? Put another one up. There’s a good boy.”

    2) Perhaps more seriously:

    Don’t talk to the police. Apparently. What do I know? IANAL. In fact didn’t I get this link from here a billion years ago?

    Anyway, best of luck PZ. I’m sure a busy prof is just the sort of person who has the time to commit petty acts of spite against a bunch of fascist loving no-marks. Or, you know, not.


  10. raven says

    On second thought, maybe I should talk to the police about this ongoing baseless harassment.

    You should.
    With a lawyer.
    Making false accusations and filing false police complaints is a crime.

    I’d remind the campus cops that you have been falsely accused before and that these creepy trolls have no morals, ethics, or common sense.
    And mention that you don’t like this and shouldn’t have to put up with it.
    And ask the police if they could you know, go after them instead for bearing false witness etc..

    I wouldn’t let this slide or it will just keep happening.
    I would also have it on record that a group of creepy, right wingnut trolls, have been harassing you.

  11. raven says

    At one of the west coast universities, one of the local student Nazis/white supremacists crossed some lines with their posters and flyers.
    They ended up arrested, charged, tried, and convicted.

    Andrew Oswalt sentenced to 40 days in jail, three years probation for hate crime
    OSU Barometer By Joe Wolf, Web & Mobile Manager Dec 12, 2018
    Edited for length
    Andrew Oswalt, an Oregon State University Ph.D. candidate who holds white nationalist beliefs, was relocated to the Benton County Jail on Wednesday, where he is set to spend a total of 40 days.

    Oswalt was sentenced to 30 days in jail, three years of supervised probation and a $500 fine for the crime of first-degree intimidation, which is a felony. He was also barred from contact with the victims in the case. On a related charge of third-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, Oswalt was sentenced to an additional 10 days in jail, a further $250 fine and 3 years of probation concurrent with his other sentence.
    OSU student found guilty on three hate crime charges
    All of the charges relate to Oswalt and a companion placing stickers on cars belonging to members of the activist group Showing Up for Racial Justice. The stickers contained a racial slur against African-Americans.

    For placing the stickers, Oswalt was convicted on three counts of intimidation in the first degree and two counts of criminal mischief in the third degree.

    If the Morris, MN trolls are committing hate crimes and they well might, they should be arrested by the campus cops.

    PZ might want to got to Google and print out some cases where college right wingnut trolls have ended up in jail.
    And give copies to the campus cops and the local DA.

  12. psanity says

    Hm. If it were me, I would call the campus police, point out that this is the second time this group had tried to use the cops against me with unfounded assertions, that I am concerned about this misuse of campus police time, as well as mine, and gently indicate that this ought not to be allowed to become a pattern of behavior. (Thus cueing the cops to have a Dutch-Uncle talk with these young idiots.)

    As Lady Bracknell might say, once might be an honest mistake, twice indicated an excess of imagination, but three times would be harassment, and may have consequences. I would hope that UMM has some rules for the behavior of accredited student groups, and of course, unaccredited student groups can’t really complain if the public frowns upon their silly fliers, and acts accordingly..

  13. whheydt says

    Re: psanity @ #14…
    The way an ex-spook of my acquaintance put it… Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

  14. says

    This is voluntary and you are under no obligation to answer my questions but I am giving you the opportunity to respond to some of the things that I have found.

    This sentence strikes me as odd.

  15. TGAP Dad says

    It looks like you’re the campus republicans’ George Soros – the evil librul at the root of every ranked-out right wing conspiracy theory.

  16. raven says

    Purchase Student Charged With Hate Crime Over Campus … › SUNY-Purchase-College-Nazi-Posters-Su…
    Dec 10, 2018 – As members of the Jewish community were celebrating the last night of Hanukkah, posters being referred to as “Nazi themed,” bearing images of Adolf Hitler and swastika iconography were hung up in various locations at the Purchase College campus. … Gunnar Hassard of Oneonta, an 18 …

    Here is another one.

    Putting up Nazi and racially derogatory posters and stickers is…a hate crime.
    Seems to me the Morris MN campus Nazis and white racists have a lot more to worry about than PZ.
    The one at OSU ended up with a felony.

    This used to happen a lot at my old university.
    The local Nazis didn’t bother with posters though.
    They just sprayed swastikas on the sidewalks and buildings.

  17. raven says

    Teen hate crime: Swastikas, racist graffiti divide a Maryland … › graphics › local › teen-graffiti-hate-crime…
    Jul 9, 2019 – Footage shows hate crime being committed at Glenelg High School …. each had to choose a single book about Nazi Germany or the Jim Crow .

    One more for the road.

  18. says

    IAAL (but this is not legal advice, especially since I don’t do criminal law and am not licensed in Minnesota). Talking to the police without a lawyer is generally ok if you initiate the contact and you are providing information that you have personal knowledge of (not just suspicions, however dark) something the coppers don’t already know about. If the police start the process, however… not so much.

    The problem is not so much incompetence (although that’s not impossible) or prejudice (although that’s far from impossible) as it is “performance metrics.” Bluntly, when the coppers don’t nab a suspect, there’s criticism; and it’s always easier to nab one of the usual suspects. Because then, if that usual suspect gets off, it seldom reflects badly on the coppers — they blame it on liberal judges, or stupid juries, or interfering busybody civil-rights activists who don’ ‘preciate lawnorder. Not on their cruddy investigation. It’s institutional pressure; think “publish or perish” turned up to eleven among people who have trouble spelling “conflict of interest” if given the first eleven letters, even when they have the best of intentions (and it only takes one with bad intentions to poison the entire barrel).

  19. says

    Maybe they’ll have 27 8×10 glossy color photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. If they do, just throw yourself on the mercy of the court.

  20. says

    So, posting bigoted posters inside a university campus is legal in the USA. Removing said posters is a crime? WTF? I went to a university in Europe, and here it was vice versa. Posters promoting bigotry and intolerance were forbidden in universities. If somebody tried to post them anyway, university staff would be the ones to remove them.

  21. Kagehi says

    @24 Well… You have two problems here – 1) The university has, quite obviously, either failed to provide a clear enough set of guidelines as to what speech they do all and/or they haven’t had their own campus cops enforce that policy, by removing such things themselves (The irony here being that the current political climate is one where blocking certain speech is “politically incorrect”, so its actually being PC to whine and complain that someone is trying to take away your rights, so all the jokers that are likely to complain about it being PC to “deny X form of speech”….), and 2) having granted the right to place private property in a known location, for display, it actually “is” a crime for someone to come along and vandalize that, whether its a hate filled diatribe, or a painting. Permission has been given, and it can only be removed, legally, by either the owner, or an authorized authority, for violating what ever, if there even are any, rules that where given, regarding what is allowed to be displayed.

    So, there is “legal grounds” to get rid of it, just.. not any random person can do so, and usually this would be a good thing, since it protects everything from neutral postings, like ads for selling your car, to artworks, etc.