Police officer suspended after giving instructions on how to best run over protestors

A police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota has been suspended for making the following insane Facebook post:

St. Paul and Minneapolis (the twin cities) have seen a sharp rise in protest activity related to the Black Lives Matter movement (in fact, I’d previously written about it, when a Minneapolis Councilwoman “outed” those who had sent her critical correspondence as a result of her attendance at a Black Lives Matter protest).  That was the impetus for Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker making the above post, which suggests that protesters be run over and then gives advise on how to best handle the aftermath of said murder attempt.


Sgt. Rothecker was posting under a pseudonym, but the post was obviously traced back to him, and the results were predictable: The Sergeant was suspended.  In a statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said:

“I am outraged and disgusted by the post and have directed the SPPD to investigate. That investigation is currently underway.

“Chief Smith and I are committed to building strong, trusting relationships with the communities we serve.

“There is no room in the Saint Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public. If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law.

As always, using social media to incite violence is always an absolutely terrible thing.  I suspect that Sgt. Rothecker believed himself to be at least somewhat protected, since he was using a pseudonym.  It has been said before, and clearly, needs to be said again: There is no such thing as anonymity or privacy online.  Things you say can always be tracked back to you, and clearly, that is exactly what happened here.


San Jose police officer fired for series of tweets

A police officer in San Jose was fired after making a series of tweets related to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as alluding to other cases of police violence.

Until his firing, officer Phillip White was a police officer in San Jose.  According to published reports, White was, “a well-regarded member of SJPD for over two decades and was heavily involved in youth outreach, particularly with anti-gang programs.”  The fact that he was well regarded, and involved in worthy programs, makes his firing even sadder, and his poor judgement even stranger.

The tweets in question?

Yeah, that’s definitely pretty bad.  The second tweet is particularly egregious; it’s as if Officer White was invited people to attack him.  The “can’t breathe” reference is to Eric Garner, who was killed by the NYPD while screaming, “I can’t breathe!”  Reports also note that these were not the first controversial tweets posted by Officer White, who had responded to others, complaining of excessive force used by the police.

Regardless of his intentions, the San Jose Police Department found that the tweets would have permanently effected White’s ability as a police officer, and as such, he was let go.  Officer White thus becomes the latest police officer to be fired as a result of his controversial social media use when it comes to #BlackLivesMatter and other related movements.

The lesson, as always, remains the same: Public officials, including paid, non-elected employees, have to uphold a higher standard, and must be very, very careful with what kind of content they put on social media.

Tweets and Consequences

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John Hanlin

Sheriff in Oregon shootings is “Sandy Hook Truther,” via Facebook

America has endured yet another mass shooting, this one at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  The local county sheriff on the case is John Hanlin, and Sheriff Hanlin is making news for all the wrong reasons: his bizarre postings to Facebook.

Apparently, at at least one point in his life, Sheriff Hanlin was a “Sandy Hook truther”:


For those of you who are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with this concept, Sandy Hook “truthers” believe that the massacres at Sandy Hook were a staged, false-flag operation, executed by the government as part of an effort to crack down on constitutional rights – in this case, gun control.  Yeah.  Wow.

Sheriff Hanlin has since deleted the video – a little late for that, don’t you think?  The Sheriff was asked about the posting in a CNN interview, but responded, “I know what you’re referring to, but that’s not a conspiracy theory that I have.”

Note to all law enforcement officials – and really, all public officials: If you post crazy videos like this, the opinions in the video will be assumed to be your own.  That goes double when you add comments like, “…makes me wonder who we can trust anymore…” and “Watch, listen, and keep an open mind.”

This kind of content should never be shared, in such a positive manner, by any elected official, and the Sheriff shouldn’t be at all surprised that he is being questioned over this.  I will also add that I think it’s an appropriate question to ask.

Anthony Caruso

A career killer: Using social media to make fun of your boss while being racist!

This one was a fail on many different levels.

Lt. Anthony Caruso was a 23 year veteran of the Newark Police Department, pulling down a salary of $133,000.  That changed last week, when Lt. Caruso was fired for comments he made about Ras Baraka, the city’s African-American Mayor.

In the comments, another person made a Facebook post to Caruso’s wall with a picture of a gorilla and the comment “Lmafo….How’s your mayor?”  Caruso responded, “Exactly!!!!”  And that ended Caruso’s career.

According to the City, policies are in place which prohibit “employees from making any comment or opinion that defames the department or is derogatory in nature towards the City of Newark or any of its employees.”  Honestly, I suspect that Lt. Caruso wouldn’t have had a problem – at least not this bad of a problem – had he just insulted the Mayor.  However, doing so in a racism manner was such an error, on so many different levels, that his firing was clearly justified.  As always, this just proves that public employees are under a different microscope – and a different level of scrutiny – than the average person.

What is even more interesting – and depressing – about this scandal is that Caruso wasn’t the one who made the post.  He just said “Exactly!!!!” but clearly, this is enough to imply that he agreed with the racist post, thus putting him into the realm of unacceptable social media content.

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.

Sheriff’s deputy forced to retire after inappropriate Facebook posts

Until last week, James Myers was a Sheriff’s Deputy in Dane County, Wisconsin.  What happened?  Myers was forced to retire after making two very inappropriate Facebook posts.

Channel 3000 took to Facebook to post a map which showed the locations of a series of shootings in Madison, Wisconsin.  The post then asked the question, “What should be done about this trend?”

Myers responded:

Dane Myers Map

Just in case you cannot read the comments, Myers said, “Send them back to Chicago.” About 30 minutes later, Myers added, “Then nuke Chicago.”

The posts were made on May 15; five days later, it was reported that Myers was under investigation for the posts and put on paid leave.  After the story broke, Sheriff Dave Mahoney took to Facebook to apologize for Myers’ post:

Many of the commenters noted that the comments had a clear racist tinge to them.

It was reported last week that Myers had to retire as a result of the posts.  As noted by the Wisconsin State Journal, Sheriff Mahoney said:

The deputy’s actions “irreparably impaired his ability to perform the duties of a law enforcement officer,” Sheriff Dave Mahoney said, “and as such, he is no longer employed by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.” Myers made public statements that would “significantly erode the confidence” citizens place in the Sheriff’s Office, Mahoney added.

As always, the conclusion is simple: don’t make stupid posts, and don’t be surprised when stupid posts get you fired – particularly if you are a public official.

james holmes aurora colorado

Attention attorneys: Don’t tweet during trial!

The trial of James Holmes, accused of mass murder in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, is now entering it’s sixth week.  The trial took a bizzarre turn last week, however, when Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler was reprimanded for tweeting during the trial.

Brauchler is an active Twitter user who, until recently, avoided tweeting during the trial.  However, last Thursday, that changed.  While the defense was cross-examining a mental health expert, Brauchler tweeted: “I agree on the video. I hope the jury thinks so, too.”  Brauchler was referencing 22 hours of interviews recorded by Dr. William Reid, who had interviewed James Holmes.  The next day, defense attorney Tamara Brady told the judge about the tweet, and the issue was brought up in open court.  Said Brady:

“If the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man, perhaps the district attorney should pay attention to the cross-examination of a mental health expert rather than chatting on social media.”


Judge Carlos Samour agreed and ordered the attorneys not to tweet during court.  “If you’re bored and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you can leave.”  He also added that nothing was so important that the lawyers needed to send a text or email or tweet from the courtroom.

Brauchler apologized for the tweet and said he thought he was responding to a text, noting that he had deleted the tweet as soon as he realized what he had done.  Said the District Attorney, “It’s an embarrassing mistake, but one I think I corrected quickly.”

As I’ve written about before, there is a serious danger when it comes to the legal profession and tweeting.  Strict ethical guidelines must be adhered to, and tweeting during the trial is definitely a bad idea.  This tweet may or may not have been an accident, but regardless, attorneys need to be very aware of what they are doing on social media, what they are saying, and when they are saying it.

That, and for crying out loud, this isn’t some unimportant office meeting: Look like you are paying attention.  In fact, actually pay attention.  Lives and justice are at stake.


CNN hosts #AskACop…guess how well this went?

I’ve repeatedly written about how subjects with signifigant negative sentiment should avoid using branded hashtags, because the viral and open nature of these hashtags will often lead to serious negative feedback.

This past Tuesday, CNN ran a segment with a panel of police officers.  The show, which aired at 10pm, encouraged users to submit questions to police officers via Twitter:

Guess how this went:


These responses are brutal.

As noted by the Mashable article, many of the tweets did ask legitimate questions, and many were supportive as well.  However, the negative response to the hashtag did show a sad truth: an incredible amount of distrust and negative feels exist towards the men and women in blue.

From CNN’s perspective, however, the show was a hit: #AskACop was the top trending topic in the United States.

Clearly, while this may have been a sad day for police officers, it was not for CNN: they clearly got what they wanted.

So, was this a fail?  As always, the answer is nuanced.  There was a ton of negative feedback generated against police officers in general, and given the times we live in, this is sadly unsurprising.  This is clearly a national problem, and one that is, without a doubt, making it more difficult for police to take care of their community.  How can it be addressed, at least on social media?

Via things like #askacop.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but police departments should use more hashtags like these, at least on a local level.  If they are truly dedicated towards rebuilding and restoring trust, as well as addressing their community, they should hold events like these and answer questions.  Of course, this comes with a few caviets:

  • This should be done on a local level, not a national one, if the goal is constructive dialogue. This way, when posed with questions about police brutality in other departments, local departments can respond honestly: they have not done things like that.
  • They should acknowledge that negative feedback will occur; in fact, they should encourage it, so it can be addressed.  Remember, people are using social media to talk about you regardless of whether or not you are actually using social media, and encouraging people to direct negative feedback to you gives you a chance to address it.

What do you think: Do I have this right? Let me know in the comments.