A law enforcement group on Facebook offering support and working towards preventing police officer suicides has been shut down with no explanation.

The group was called LEO Only. 

Started by Sergeant Craig Polen, it was a closed Facebook group of verified police officers.  And according to Facebook, it violated the site’s “community standards”.

Which standards, exactly?  Nobody knows.

According to Sgt. Polen, the group isn’t remotely controversial or political.  They make sure that conversations are focused on avoiding politics and focusing on their core mission of offering peer to peer support for law enforcement officers.  Members are carefully screened to make sure that only verified law enforcement officers are members.

Polen says that all too often, police struggle to find a place to share their experiences and struggles on and off the job.

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“I have five moderators,” he told Turtleboy Sports in a phone conversation, “black, white, female…so that where I may not be able to recognize comments and content that may be racist, sexist or otherwise objectionable, they can.” 

In their own words:

“LEO Only was established in 2013 by Craig Polen, with the intention of giving fellow officers a place where they would feel comfortable talking and expressing their feelings concerning their experiences, good and bad, as law enforcement officers.

Sometimes, talking about your day at work with non LEOs is not only uncomfortable, but perhaps not appropriate. On this site communication is encouraged and there are thousands of other officers who are willing and eager to listen and perhaps even give advice should it be asked for, twenty four hours of every day.”

Out of the group, a mission to give back was launched.  A mission that’s now going to take a major hit because Facebook arbitrarily decided to eliminate them from the platform.  From LEO Only:

“Sgt. Polen also had a vision of seeing that young children of brothers and sisters who had fallen victim to the ravages of the job and perhaps been injured or made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow man, would never have to awaken on a Christmas morning without the joy of a visit from Santa because it wasn’t affordable to their remaining family.

So with this thought in mind he put forth the idea to all of the members of LEO Only that we endeavor to provide Christmas shopping sprees to these kids.

This was a large undertaking, but the LEO Only members embraced the idea wholeheartedly and soon ideas were pouring in from all corners on how to raise funds for this cause. Many things were tried. Some worked amazingly well while others were mediocre at best. But in the end enough money was raised to provide Christmas for 23 children in our first year of operation.

As our numbers have rapidly grown and more and more members embrace this cause, the level of participation has also grown greatly and even more ideas have emerged and more money has been raised.

We reached the point where we felt that we needed to establish ourselves as a non-profit organization with all of the perks and the problems that come with that status.  

We are now at the point where we are planning to do at least 50 shopping sprees this calendar year and we have begun the discussions toward establishing college scholarships for some children that need that type of help.”

LEO Only is a 501c3.  They have an ongoing fundraiser throughout the year to support the families of fallen officers.  They used Facebook to help in those efforts and to help sell tickets to events that support their initiatives.

Polen hopes this was simply a mistake.

“I just want to know what standard we broke,” Polen said, “So we can fix it.”

But far too often, groups are being shut down on Facebook with no explanation and no recourse. 

Ironically, Law Enforcement Today learned about this story from Turtleboy Sports, which has itself had countless pages shut down on Facebook for unsubstantiated “policy violations”. 

They’ve largely been removed from Facebook and Twitter, with the platforms going so far as to shut down the profiles of the admins who were even associated with the pages.

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For Turtleboy, it all started when a murdered police officer, Sean Gannon of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was shot – allegedly by a guy with more than 100 priors.

Aidan Kearney, a 37-year-old former school teacher and founder of Turtleboy Sports, posted a picture of a Yarmouth police badge on the page as a memorial to Gannon. 

It lead to the page being shut down as a “violation of community standards”.  The page had some 140,000 followers.  Since then, Turtleboy pages started by Aidan and his supporters have been removed from Facebook and Twitter more than 100 times.

Why?  It’s all about “artificial intelligence”.

AI is being used to screen “hate speech” and other content that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says doesn’t belong on Facebook.  It’s then flagged by the platform and the offending pages are shut down, often with arbitrary oversight by “Facebook Moderators”.

It’s a battle Aidan continues to fight to this day, and clearly others do as well.

If you’d like to support LEO Only, you can visit the LEO Only website to donate to their cause here.