In 2014, Tactical Rabbit received a tip that an officer in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Florida had been posting offensive comments online. Tactical Rabbit went to work.
A search quickly revealed that a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy, Jason Van Dusen, had been using his personal Facebook account to post disturbing comments and images. One showed him brandishing an automatic weapon, giving the middle-finger salute. Another post showed Van Dusen celebrating in police uniform, with a cigar, after “two shootings tonight.”
Based on the preliminary findings alone, Tactical Rabbit alerted Van Dusen’s superiors at the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office, expecting serious disciplinary action. Instead, supervisors placed Van Dusen on administrative leave for just two days.
Tactical Rabbit CEO and Intelligence Director Everett Stern wasn’t satisfied. Suspecting that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, he began closely monitoring Van Dusen’s social media accounts. When he realized that he couldn’t find a Twitter account for Van Dusen—a heavy social media user—Stern teamed up with a trusted contact who once worked for the CIA and National Security Agency. Together they searched social media channels for Van Dusen’s hidden accounts.
The Tactical Rabbit investigation uncovered a Twitter account, @angrythrashdude, that was secretly operated by Van Dusen. AngryThrashDude’s tweets were vile and completely unacceptable, especially for an officer of the law. They included a photo of former First Lady Michelle Obama next to an image of a “Planet of the Apes” character. Van Dusen wrote, under his alias: “If I could get away with it, I’d punch her right in the mouth.” In another tweet posted in December 2015, after his two-day suspension, Van Dusen mouthed off again. After a married couple who were practicing Muslims slaughtered 14 people in San Bernardino, California, Van Dusen blamed their religion. “I’d say we have more of a Muslim problem than a gun problem,” he tweeted.
By analyzing more than 6,000 tweets and cross-referencing them with police activity logs, Tactical Rabbit was able to establish that Van Dusen had written many of his tweets while on duty, from his county-owned vehicle. Tactical Rabbit proved that at least 10 other deputies in the Sheriff’s Office were sharing Van Dusen’s tweets, or laughing along with him, and also using secret accounts to veil their identities.
In February 2018, Tactical Rabbit CEO Stern had seen enough. He sent a follow-up letter to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Internal Affairs division, including screenshots of Van Dusen’s recent posts. Stern wrote: “To be frank, we have never heard of a law enforcement officer posting such an extreme level of racist remarks against African Americans, Muslims, Jews, and women.” He asked the Sheriff to take stern action.
Amazingly, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Internal Affairs division dismissed Stern’s investigation out of hand. Stern was out of options, so it was time to alert the press.
The Tactical Rabbit investigation received widespread media coverage. CBS News in West Palm Beach and many others ran stories. “I think it’s absolutely a public safety issue,” Stern told CBS. “This person could be the guy pulling you over on the side of the road.”
The media glare worked. Finally, in June 2018, Tactical Rabbit’s years-long effort paid off. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office fired deputy Van Dusen for a series of offensive social media posts dating back to 2013.
In a June 2nd article in the Miami Herald, Stern was credited with exposing the deputy’s racist rants. According to the paper, “The posts came to light when Everett Stern, Founder and Intelligence Director of Tactical Rabbit, a Pennsylvania-based private intelligence agency, uncovered them and tipped off detectives.” The Palm Beach Post reported: “The investigations into Van Dusen, in 2014 and the current probe, began after the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office received complaints from Everett Stern, the director of a national investigative firm based in West Chester, Pa.”
Shortly after Van Dusen’s firing, Stern called on the FBI to investigate the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for widespread civil rights violations. He stated, “The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has a deep-rooted internal problem that is creating a public safety risk; therefore, an FBI investigation must be launched to protect the public and ensure the police are promoting justice.”
Days later, when checking a private chat room used by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s officers, Tactical Rabbit investigators got confirmation of a wider issue in the department. The Sheriff’s officers continually referred to Stern as “that N***er-loving Jew.”
Stern expressed his support for law enforcement to the Miami Herald, saying, “99.9% of police officers are NOT like the officer depicted in this story. I am honored that my team and I got this particular officer off the streets, as this officer does not represent the law enforcement community.”