Bogus tale of police misconduct draws online attention
FARGO – Chadd was frustrated and angry. He needed to vent.
So he logged on to an online forum for diabetes sufferers like himself, and he shared what was on his mind.
In a 600-word post, he told of how two Fargo police officers pulled him over the night before, suspecting he had drugs on him. He wrote that they searched his car with a police dog, broke two vials of his insulin and ripped out an insulin pump that was connected to his body. His blood-sugar levels shot up, and he needed medical attention.
The problem with the post, which went up Sunday and received more than 12,500 views by Thursday, was that it was completely bogus. Chadd, who goes by the single name on the site, concocted the whole thing. He acknowledged this in a later post.
“What I had wrote was false and fabricated and not true in the allegations toward the police department,” he said in the post. “I guess I had wrote it cause I was lonely and depressed and needed to write and it came out as a story.”
Before Chadd came clean, dozens of readers wrote messages on the site, supporting him and expressing ire toward the officers. As you might guess, this episode did not please local police officials.
“What’s frustrating for us is that a fair number of people immediately jumped to the conclusion without hearing or getting any other information,” Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said. “I think we just live in a day and age now where it’s far too easy and convenient for somebody to put misinformation out there that’s consumed by the public.”
Chadd’s story spread through the community, enough that The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead learned of it and asked police about the allegations. This prompted a police lieutenant to track down Chadd and pay a visit to his home. Despite all this, Chadd won’t face criminal charges, Ternes said.
“We just chalked it up to somebody’s indiscretion,” the chief said.
Local police say distorted versions of run-ins with officers often end up online, but total fictions are rare.
Assistant Chief Mike Reitan of the West Fargo Police Department said Chadd’s story is the most egregious he’s ever seen. He said such stories have the potential to create undeserved mistrust of the police.
“In situations where the individual fabricates the story, it’s difficult for us to go back and undo what’s been done,” Reitan said.
Police recognize that as enforcers of the law, they won’t always be popular, and they’ll sometimes be the targets of Internet trolls.
“That’s reality, and you’re not going to be able to extinguish all those rumors and falsehoods,” said Moorhead, Minn., police Lt. Tory Jacobson.
As for Chadd, he apologized for his fake story, which has been removed from the site. “I’m not feeling good about what I had done,” he wrote in a post. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience and wasted time I had caused all of you.”