Facebook and undercover work kind of clash E-mail
Written by Jose Torres   

If you read American Police Beat, you already know that a Facebook account can end your career faster than an ill-advised station-house romance. Cops can risk their livelihood by what they choose to post and upload to social media sites. But it’s harder to imagine anything more dangerous for an undercover officer than a Facebook account.

In Texas, a woman is now facing a felony retaliation charge after she allegedly posted a photograph of an undercover narcotics officer on Facebook and identified his job.

According to ABC News, Melissa Walthall, 30, told Mesquite police she saw the photograph on a flyer and posted it on Facebook because her friend was upset with the officer's testimony on drug charges, according to a federal affidavit.

One of Walthall's friends told police a photograph of a man appeared in her newsfeed and was labeled "Undercover Mesquite Narcotics" along with the caption "Anyone know this b****."
Investigators checked Walthall's Facebook page and issued a warrant for her arrest on harassment charges. Officials said they considered her post a "viable threat to that officer's safety," the affidavit stated.

Walthall refused to identify her friend that the officer had testified against.

But a quick search led police to George Pickens.

Pickens, 34, told investigators he and his brother, Bobby Stedham, found the undercover officer’s Facebook page and photograph. The two then used the photo to make flyers featuring the officer with the intent to display them "like garage sale signs," according to the affidavit.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association.

"If you're trying to infiltrate a cartel, a drug ring, a gang, one of the keys is people have to believe you're not an officer. Anything that hints at tying you to law enforcement is very dangerous," he said.

Which is of course why a lot of seasoned officers might wonder, “What the hell is a UC doing with a Facebook page in the first place?”

Stedham, 26, has also been charged with retaliation. Pickens faces drugs and weapons charges after authorities found 28.6 grams of methamphetamine in his room and an unregistered, sawed-off shotgun.

Lawrence says his group advises members of law enforcement to be very cautious about social media.

"There are too many opportunities for bad things to happen in exchange for very little up side," he said. "But the fact the officer shouldn't have had a Facebook doesn't excuse Walthall either."


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Comments (1)Add Comment
Correction on Facebook Acct.
written by JD Nance, January 19, 2013
I am very close to the investigator in this case and I am a seasoned officer with the aforementioned agency. To clarify he had no Facebook account the photo was taken from his spouses Facebook account. That in my oppinion is more troubling and shows the suspects went to pretty good lengths to expose said investigators position and identity.

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