Cleveland Twitter account: Should we burn the city down like Baltimore?

Yep.  Can’t make that one up.

Like many cities, Cleveland has struggled with relations between citizens and its police.  Those struggles are currently being exacerbated by the manslaughter trial of police officer Michael Brelo, who is being charged with killing two citizens.  One of the departments in Cleveland City Hall responsible for for managing those relationships and tensions is the Cleveland Community Relations Board, whose job is to “protect individual’s civil rights and to promote peaceful relations among and relieve tension between cultural groups.”

The Cleveland CRB’s troubles started last Monday when they tried to encourage users to tweet about community/police relations, resulting in a flood of negative comments.  Apparently upset by the comments, the CRB tweeted:

ClevelandCRB

The tweet above is obviously tone-deaf and gives the impression that they were asking for comments and then upset about getting honest feedback. Unsurprisingly, respondents were upset and let the account have it; the story also earned the CRB a negative story on Cleveland.com.  Surely they then learned their lesson, apologized and pledged to work to have a better community dialogue going forward?

Nope! It only got worse.

Should Cleveland Be Burned Like Baltimore Twitter

Pro-tip: Asking if your city should be burned down is NOT a good way to build community relations. Among those commenting was Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, who pretty much summed it up:

The tweets were deleted and apologized for last Tuesday:

Our intention with the #ourcle campaign was to create a conversation online surrounding community and police relations. (1 of 3)

We apologize for recent inappropriate #ourcle tweets sent from this account. They were not in the spirit of what we intended to do. (2 of 3)

We’ll continue pushing for dialogue between you and the city. Please follow#onecle for updates and to share your thoughts. (3 of 3)

The entire incident forced the Mayor to address the controversy, with Mayor Frank Johnson saying that the tweets were inappropriate and that CRB Director Blaine Griffin was given a “strong verbal reprimand.”

The Twitter account has since been deleted.

To some extent, you almost have to feel bad for the Twitter account and it’s manager.  The goal of any such organization is to build stronger relationships between a community and it’s government and citizens.  That means answering difficult questions.  However, even asking the question about whether or not a city should be burned, in a violent race riot, is insanely provocative.  There are a million better ways of addressing important questions, and clearly, this was not appropriate.  Based on the entire week’s thread, it’s clear that Griffin needed better training in how to use Twitter.

One final thing surprised me with this one: Mayor Johnson said that the employee was disciplined and described how.  That’s weird.  Usually, government officials don’t say what happened to an employee, citing HR concerns and privacy.  I was surprised that this didn’t happen here and that we all found out about Griffin’s “strong verbal reprimand.”  Usually that information isn’t released.

Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.

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