HERRIN — Three police officers on duty Sunday in Herrin spent their day on the phone, assisting the department’s two dispatchers to field about 900 unexpected phone calls, Deputy Police Chief Warren Blake said Monday.
The cause: A graphic picture of a man in a police uniform exposing himself through his unzipped fly, which was posted to the Herrin Police Department’s Google business page.
For a time on Sunday, the photo appeared to anyone who searched for the department on Google, prompting a police investigation and efforts to remove the photo.
“I have reported this problem to Google and reached out to a Cybercrime specialist regarding potential identification of the responsible parties,” Police Chief Quinn Laird posted Sunday on Facebook. “Please do not call our dispatch center to report this. We are aware. The phones are so busy that it is interfering with our ability to answer 911 and regular calls for service.”
Twenty-four hours later, all traces of the photo have been removed and police have confirmed it did not depict a local officer.
“Nobody, at least in this county, that wears that kind of badge,” Blake said. “It could be anyone from out of the country to down the street.”
Herrin Police Department has not identified the person who posted the photos, a google user with the screen name “megam Roy.”
The investigation has been transferred to Illinois State Police’s Statewide Terrorism & Intelligence Center (STIC), Blake said, which handles cyberattacks.
STIC has not yet reported back to Herrin P.D., Blake said. Even if the agency does succeed in identifying the poster, it remains unclear what crime, if any, they could be charged with.
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“If we’re able to identify the person, we’ll talk to the prosecutor and find out if any crime was committed,” Blake said. “My understanding is that it likely wouldn’t be a First Amendment issue, like pornography or whatever you want to call it. It would be more about tying up our dispatch center.”
Thanks to the cooperation between officers and dispatchers, all emergency calls were fielded quickly, Blake said.
A review of the “megam Roy” profile indicates the user posted their first Google review five days ago, for the Marion Home Depot.
The user went on to review numerous other Williamson County businesses, giving all five-star reviews, before beginning to post racy photos.
The Energy Police Department was tagged with the same photo as Herrin, as were local businesses including Sergio's Mexican Restaurant in Murphysboro and Bob Thompson Mason & Concrete in Herrin.
“There were probably half-a-million hits from people looking at the picture. I’ve got no clue how things spread like that,” Blake said. “It probably starts off on Facebook and becomes clickbait.”
In the wake of the photo post, the Herrin Police Department’s Google presence was refreshed, removing all old photos and reviews.
The department is in the process of claiming Google-verified ownership of their business listing, Blake said, so officials will be notified immediately when new reviews and photos are posted and will be able to immediately flag any offensive content.
A Google user named “garrick morley” left the first new review on the Herrin Police Department’s refreshed page at about 1 p.m. Monday: a five-star review that reads “Lol nice pics.”