(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A northwest Missouri state senator has filed a bill that would protect the people who protect us.
State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer wants to make "doxing" a law enforcement officer a felony crime.
"It should not be a risk that they take on," said Dist. 34 State Senator Luetkemeyer.
Doxing is a form of cyberbullying that's been recently used to target police officers and their families across the country.
Officers become victims when someone finds their personal information like an address or social security number and post it online to encourage harassment.
"Any time anyone's personal information is given out over social media or any kind of internet site it can be detrimental or dangerous to that person and their family," said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Brad Kerns. "Nobody wants anybody showing up at their front door step."
Luetkemeyer feels the threat to law enforcement is real, not only to officers but to their families.
"They're not signing up for people to show up at their private residence and intimidate them and their spouse and the rest of their family. That's nothing that our law enforcement officers sign up for," Sen. Luetkemeyer said.
Luetkemeyer wants to make doxing a police officer a felony crime punishable by jail time. He said a recent social media video of a police protest in Kansas City led him to file the legislation.
In the video, a protester can be heard saying, "We are going to start sharing things with your children's teachers. You don't think that we have extensive researchers? You don't think that we don't know where all y'all live? You don't think we don't know where your children go to school?"
"I thought it was disgusting," Sen. Luetkemeyer said. "Police officers should not be worried about the whereabouts of the children's schools being publicly disclosed so that people go and harass members of their families. That type of conduct should never be acceptable in our society, and people who want to do things like that to attack police officers and their families. They need to be held accountable."
St. Joseph police say doxing is not a tactic they've seen used frequently against their officers, and they say the threat isn't just limited to police.
"It's important to everybody," Brendan McGinnis, a detective with the St. Joseph Police Electronic Crimes Unit said." You yourself wouldn't want your personal cell phone, your address put out on any social media."
Police say there are proper ways to report officer misconduct. Doxing isn't one of them.
"I would often tell people is it worth it? Is it worth it?," McGinnis said. "To me it's not worth going to prison over trying to exact some sort of revenge against an officer or any other person in the community because that's going to be short-term, and if you have a legitimate problem there's other processes that you can play out."
As lawmakers take steps to control the future of doxing, Luetkemeyer fears what could happen to the future of police departments if the cyber threat is left unchecked.
"My ultimate fear is that if we don't stand behind our law enforcement officers and make sure that they and their families feel safe and protected that it's going to be very difficult for police departments in the future to be able to recruit and retain good officers and that's not good for anybody," Sen. Luetkemeyer said."
Luetkemeyer's bill will start working its way through the state legislature when the lawmakers return for the General Assembly on January 6.