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.

Wow.

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.

British police department in trouble for tweeting multiple rape jokes

Yes, you did read that title correctly: A police department in England really is in trouble for tweeting a couple of rape jokes.

The background: This past Sunday, the Everton soccer team defeated Sunderland by a 6-2 margin…a blowout, in soccer terms.  A Twitter user than sent the following to the Merseyside Police Department.  Everton, which is located in Merseyside, then responded.  That exchange below:

Everton-rape-tweet1

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they then came back for seconds:

Everton-rape-gag-2

Yeah, this went over poorly:

And, as you can imagine, Merseyside Police was forced to apologize:

What has since come out about this story is that one individual was responsible for the tweets, and that that individual “left the organization.” I didn’t think this needed to be said, but here goes: Never, ever, ever use the internet to make rape jokes.  Come to think of it, never ever EVER MAKE RAPE JOKES.

Tweets and Consequences

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SanJosePolice

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”:

JohnHanlinSandyHook

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.

Mike Halstead, former Sun City Police Chief

Local police chief retires after anti Black Lives Matter Facebook post

Until recently, Mike Halstead was the police chief of Sun City, North Carolina.  That changed when Halstead abruptly retired following the following Facebook note that the outgoing Chief made about the Black Lives Matter movement:

Often, there is ambiguity in a Facebook status – a possible alternative interpretation which could lend credence to the argument that the author didn’t mean the post in any racially inflammatory way.  Here, that’s simply not the case.  Later in the note, Halstead says that he instructs his officers to “shoot a thug” if necessary, and referring to a movement fighting for racial equality as “an American born terrorist group” is simply, and clearly, racist.

Unsurprisingly, this note resulted in the end of former Chief Halstead’s career.  The end came at an emergency meeting called by Sun City Mayor Zander Guy, who called the meeting to deal with “personnel issues.”  Halstead attended the meeting but abruptly left it.  According to published reports, Chief Halstead run Sun City’s police Department for 13 years and had been involved in law enforcement for 35 years.

Further reading into this article reveals that Sun City left themselves open to this, to some extent: While their personnel policy does govern how officers should present themselves on social media, it doesn’t have any specific social media policy.  As incidents like this have proven time and time again, having specific policy is vitally important in order to prevent a lawsuit or confusion about expectations among public officials.  In addition to the obvious (don’t be racist!), this is the lesson of this disaster: make sure that your organization has a social media policy, so it is able to prevent situations like this, or appropriately deal with the aftermath.

By the way, the website where I first read about this incident (STATter911) has a fantastic acronym for these type of fails: SMACSS (Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome).  A sadly accurate acronym if I’ve ever heard one!

Firefighter on police officers: “we have [to] start putting them in body bags”

There has been an astounding degree of vitriol directed at America’s police officers in the wake of a series of controversial police-involved shootings.  Sometimes, the social media comments are well-reasoned, articulate and meant at creating dialogue and furthering a legitimate point.  Other times, the comments have been despicable.  For example, see the post below:

VA-Fairfax-Khalil-Rasheed-post-1

What makes this post truly horrifying that is Abdul-Rasheed is a firefighter in Fairfax County, Virginia.  The comments were made during the discussion of a police shooting in Michigan.

This, naturally, does not bode well for Abdul-Rasheed’s career; he has been suspended, with pay, pending an investigation into the comments.  In a Facebook conversation with STATter911.com, Abdul-Rasheed said the following:

im suck to my stomach with what is happening. …all i know is i fear for my sons lives….it just makes me upset and its unfair.

The distrust in these communities run deep.

but you know dave theyve wanted to fire me before….every since recruit school theyve slander my religion and name…theyve made up stories that people laughed and believed at…ive been called a terrorist in front of officers and nothing has been done about….this has been my life in the dept….but im alone in this

From the entirety of Abdul-Rasheed’s comments, he appears to be upset at his treatment within the department, but fails to adequately understand the significance of his Facebook comments.  Abdul-Rasheed is angry, and that anger is certainly coursing through much of America.  However, it is important to note that Abdul-Rasheed is not in trouble for feeling angry, but for expressing his anger in such an inappropriate manner.  People are entitled to feel whatever they want – however, once you go on social media and say that police officers should wind up in body bags, you are crossing a line.