A form used by a small town police department to collect information from pistol permit applicants and comments made by the police chief defending it have sparked controversy.
The form used by Watervliet, N.Y., included a blank line for permit applicants to supply their “Facebook & Password,” according to the blog, “The Truth About Guns.”
The blog’s publisher, Robert Farago, contacted Watervliet Police Chief Ronald Boisvert last week to ask about the use of Facebook in the town’s background check process. Chief Boisvert said the inclusion of the form in the application packet was a mistake.
“It’s for internal use only,” he said.
Boisvert insisted to Farago that the town does not record the applicant’s password – despite its obvious inclusion on the form – but instead asks the applicant to log into Facebook so that the chief can browse through their Facebook history, friends, and “anything that reflects on the character of the applicant.”
Creeped out yet?
The information from the Facebook review is then noted and sent to a Superior Court judge for a final decision on the permit.
“I’m just the middleman here,” Boisvert told Farago. “It is what it is.”
Ah, yes. He vas only following ze orders.
After Time Warner Cable News attempted to contact Chief Boisvert for more information about the form, they received a statement by email Tuesday that seemed both to confirm and contradict what the chief had reportedly told Farago.
“Social media is a vital investigative tool and we make use of it in background investigations, to render a well-founded and complete recommendation on applicants for the courts,” the statement said. “None of the eight (8) applicants who supplied Facebook information have had their accounts accessed, which I know because I am the investigating officer and the only person conducting background checks.”
Confused? So was Time Warner Cable News. So they reached out to the public relations firm representing the City of Watervliet, which said that the chief had no further comment to make.
City government would have no further comment either, Watervliet General Manager Mark Gleason told Time Warner Cable News.
“I do not take guns, gun safety or our freedoms as Americans lightly, and as Chief of Police I have a serious job to do, and I approach it with respect,” the chief’s statement also said.
Not enough respect to make sure that the internal use only form was kept out of applicant packets, of course, or to correct the mistake before eight applicants in the town of 10,000 had supplied their Facebook passwords. But, you know, respect.
Time Warner Cable News “has requested an interview with Chief Boisvert, when he is available to speak on the issue,” they reported.
We’ll have our eyes peeled for flying pigs so we’ll have a heads up when that interview has been granted.
Here is the entire text of Chief Boisvert’s statement to Time Warner Cable News:
“In light of recent inquires made to this Department regarding a Facebook post concerning Pistol Permit Application Processing at the Watervliet Police Department, the following is provided:
‘Local police agencies in New York State are charged with the important task of conducting background and character investigations of persons applying for pistol permits, a duty that we approach with the attention it deserves. Today, social media is a vital investigative tool and we make a use of it in these background investigations in order to render a well-founded and complete recommendation on applicants to the courts. None of the eight (8) applicants who supplied Facebook information have had their accounts accessed, which I know because I am the investigating officer and the only person conducting background checks. I approach this duty with the greatest respect for gun owners and their rights, a perspective that is shaped by my 9-year service in the U.S. Navy and exposure to guns at a young age through my grandfather, a well-respected gunsmith. I do not take guns, gun safety or our freedoms as Americans lightly, and as Chief of Police I have a serious job to do, and I approach it with respect.’
– Watervliet Police Chief Ronald A. Boisvert, Jr.
*The form originally posted as being included in the Pistol Permit Package has been removed and replaced with a version that does not request an applicants’ Facebook information.
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