Miami Beach police have shown that they have no place for humor when it comes to their department.
A Miami Beach man is facing criminal charges after creating a parody Twitter account claiming to be Ernesto Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Miami Beach Police Department.
A press release said the defendant, Ernesto Orsetti, is charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer, a third-degree felony, Reported The Miami New Times.
“Defendant falsely created and assumed the identity of the victim (active police officer/police information officer) via Twitter,” the police report says. “The Twitter account, @ernierodmb, had a marked Miami Beach police vehicle and a photo of the victim in uniform.”
Twitter has already suspended the account, and Orsetti was arrested on Thursday afternoon, the New Times noted.
“The behavior here was outrageous. It threatened to damage the reputation of our superb Public Information Officer, as well as the Miami Beach Police Department brand,” Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel J. Oates said in a statement. “We simply can’t tolerate such an impersonation, and I am glad Mr. Orsetti will now be held accountable.”
The police statement says that Orsetti was “engaging with local media, elected officials, and the community” as if he were Rodriguez.
The statement offers no examples of how these communications harmed the reputation of the police department, and because it is suspended, we are unable to see any examples.
What may do more damage to the Miami Beach PD brand is prosecuting someone for a parody Twitter account. In 2014, police in Peoria, Illinois saw negative repercussions after storming a house, seizing computer equipment and arresting a man for impersonating the town’s mayor on Twitter.
The man (Jon Daniel) sued the city with the help of the ACLU and argued that the arrest violated his First Amendment rights. Ultimately, the city was forced to pay $125,000 to settle the case.
“Hurt feelings do not free government from the responsibility of respecting Mr. Daniel’s freedom of speech and freedom from being arrested for that speech,” an ACLU attorney said after the Peoria case settled.
It seems highly likely that we will see a similar outcome in this case.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)