Last Thursday was a normal evening for Southeast Michigan resident Ian Peters when he received a notification on his phone. At first, it seemed regular enough. But a closer look revealed that Adam Edward, the person reaching out, was a Macomb County deputy whose account showed a racist bio with a Confederate flag background.
"He messaged me on Grindr and I automatically [saw] the Confederate flag as his picture, so I clicked it and his bio said, 'I wish there was an app for only white guys,' and I was like wtf," Peters wrote over Facebook Messenger. "So I clicked the message and it was literally a picture of a Macomb County cop in his uniform, and then another picture of him nude in the mirror, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what the hell!"
It wasn't long before Peters took screenshots of the account and called on the Facebook community to "do its thing."
"I honestly felt the urge to post it to my Facebook, because, for one, why would a cop literally be frolicking around on a gay dating app like that, being straight-up racist and giving out that image and energy? I just thought it was plain disgusting," Peters wrote. "And it makes me really upset to know that the people who are supposed to 'serve & protect' the community I live in are like that. Especially with everything going on in the world, and a cop from my area is gonna be out frolicking like that? Absolutely disgusting."
Peters said that after he posted the account images, several people told him "they've received multiple messages from the same guy and multiple pictures" including selfies.
Between The Lines contacted the Macomb County Sherriff Anthony M. Wickersham for comment. He also condemned the images, and he added that investigation so far has shown the account to be a fake. In fact, Wickersham said that this isn't the first time this deputy has been targeted.
"I believe it was about three-to-four months ago, we had an email that was sent to me anonymously [from] a concerned citizen of a deputy's actions. The deputy denied it, our computer crimes task force went in and looked and we were able to identify the individual that created the account and was trying to smear the name of the deputy," Wickersham said. "At that point, the deputy didn't want to pursue anything and the issue was dropped."
Wickersham said that last week he received another anonymous email with the images of the account that Peters had posted on Facebook.
"The deputy was immediately notified and, again, denied any involvement in this," he said. "And this was turned over to our computer crimes task force to identify the individual that posted it."
Wickersham said that the task force was able to track the IP address of the original poster and "clear" the deputy of wrongdoing. When asked what the motivation would be to use images of the deputy in a malicious manner, Wickersham said he did not want to comment on an ongoing investigation or release the real name of the deputy.
"Well, at this point, we know what the circumstances were on the first one, and right now it's just hard to speculate. And nor do I want to say anything as the investigation is going on, but it's definitely not him that's posting this kind of stuff online," he said. "… The pictures up [are] him, and it's our guy. And we're working on identifying [the person who posted them], and if we find them we will prosecute the individual responsible."
Peters said that this experience has reinforced his caution "about being on apps like that in general for privacy and safety reasons."
Editor's note: Some quotations have been edited for length and clarity.