Eight University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students were recently cited for underage drinking based off pictures a police officer took from their Facebook profiles.
According to 19-year-old UW-La Crosse student Cassie Stenholt, she received an e-mail from La Crosse police officer Alan Iverson requesting her to call him and come down to the station.
“He just asked me to come down to the station really quick, that I wasn’t in trouble,” Cassie said.
She said when she appeared there, Iverson placed two pictures on the table, asking if it was her. She said she confirmed it was her in the pictures.
According to Stenholt, Iverson asked her if she had any enemies, saying the pictures had been sent in to the station. Stenholt said she realized the pictures were actually from her friend’s Facebook profile.
Adam Bauer, a 19-year-old UW-La Crosse student, had a similar encounter with Iverson, except his encounter started with a friend request on Facebook.
“I got a friend request towards the beginning of the semester from some 20-year-old girl named ‘Jenny Anderson,'” Bauer said. “I didn’t know who it was, but I figured it was someone I met at a party.”
He said about a month later he received a random e-mail from Iverson asking him to stop down at the station for a talk. He added Iverson would not tell him why he needed to go in, but he kept saying not to worry.
“When I went down, he pulled out like four pictures from off Facebook. There were drinks in our hands but you can’t prove it’s alcohol. He still wrote me up,” Bauer said. “He hadn’t talked to anyone else, didn’t know anyone else’s names, but he told me to go tell all my roommates to come back.”
According to Bauer, Iverson told him he was giving the boys a break. He had the ability to write them up for other violations based off their pictures, but they were getting off easy with a $227 underage drinking ticket.
Bauer said he felt Iverson was scaring him into admitting things.
Joel DeSpain, Madison Police Department’s spokesperson, said he has not heard of Facebook being used to that extent before.
“[Facebook] is used more of as an investigative tool for detectives to glean information,” Despain said.
UWPD officials agreed, saying it was not a practice any of the UW police have done in the past or might do in the near future.
“I can say that it’s a classic lesson of people being foolish about what they put on Facebook. As a rule, I wouldn’t put anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want the world to see. I don’t think you should approach it with any overblown sense of privacy,” said Robert Dreschel, UW professor of journalism and mass communication.
Iverson declined to comment.