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St. Louis Police Officer Who Called Activist’s Boss About Her Tweets Now Under Investigation by Internal Affairs

A St. Louis police officer, who called an activist’s boss and warned her boss about alleged “inciteful” tweets, is reportedly under investigation after the activist posted a video of her calling this officer to confront him.

Leigh Maibes, who has participated in protests since Mike Brown was killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9, obtained the phone number for Keith Novara from her boss. She called him on October 15 just after 7 pm.

Novara, an outreach officer in Maibes’ neighborhood, admitted that he had called the real estate broker, where she works as an independent contractor, to warn him that the phones might be “blowing up” with people upset by Maibes’ tweets.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, internal affairs in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is now investigating the police officer’s call to her employer.

From the video, which Maibes posted:

Maibes: I just wanted to call and follow up with you yesterday about the calls and texts to my broker.

Novara: Yeah, that’s me. I did. I let them know.

Maibes: So, I’m still not clear why you let them know—As a police officer, why you would call my place of business and use a Twitter account that I use an alias under to hand over to my boss?

Novara: I was just letting the city businessmen know in the city that if their phones were blowing up that is what it was from because I saw that people were going to be calling and that was it.

Maibes: Where did you see that people were going to be calling my boss? Because I haven’t seen any of that.

Novara: Yeah, it was on one of the feeds.

Novara is apparently taking the aliases of activists, finding out their real names (which may be difficult or easy) and then making calls to businesses to warn them that they are tweeting things that are making people upset and so that is why they may get angry phone calls. If effective, this can be pretty defamatory.

The officer never says exactly where he saw that people were going to call her boss because of “inciteful” tweets or how anyone on Twitter knew where she worked. And, again, he is informing a person’s boss that she is the person sending messages with an account that is setup to give her some level of anonymity so she can speak her mind without having to worry her boss will pressure her to censor herself.

“You know, like to me this feels like intimidation because you are an officer that patrols my area and an officer I’ve also had contact with about trying to resolve some issues on my street,” Maibes adds. She wonders if this was being done for her benefit. Navara answers that he was just doing it to “let them [businesses] know that if their phones were going to be ringing off the hook that that was why.”

Generally, this appears to be standard work for a St. Louis police officer involved in “outreach”—spreading rumors like some mean high schooler who wants to get back at someone.

Maibes asks if these tweets were “inciteful” on her behalf. He answers that since she is involved with the neighborhood ownership model (NOM) her tweets are “contrary to what we do in the neighborhood with the citizens.”

The conversation continues:

Maibes: “My tweets are inciteful?”

Novara: “Yes”

Maibes: How are my tweets inciteful?

Novara: Ok, well, I’m done with this conversation.

Maibes: Well, I’m not because you called my job. So my question is I don’t understand how my tweets are inciteful and against the neighborhood ownership model?

Novara: Well, me calling your job is not in violation of any law.

Maibes: It’s not in violation of any law?

Novara: No.

Maibes: And it doesn’t constitute police harassment and/or intimidation to stop my activism work?

Novara: No, not at all.

Maibes: It doesn’t? [Pause] And you believe that?

Novara: Yeah, it was not my intent at all.

Maibes: So your intent was just to let my broker know? Was that before or after the chief of police called you?

Finally, Novara informs Maibes that it is because she is tweeting her thoughts about police brutality or how St. Louis police are handling protesters that he is paying her special attention:

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."