The Social Media Woes of Police Departments

Police departments made numerous social media gaffes in the wake of public outrage. When will they learn?

Social media has been a place for people to voice their outrage over the recent events in Ferguson Mo. and New York. So it makes sense that police departments are also turning to social platforms where their communities are voicing displeasure. However, both the St. Louis County Police and the New York Police Department made social media gaffes in their reactions to recent events.

The St. Louis County Police made an ill-advised Facebook post about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old who was shot in the stomach by a rookie police officer.


The post, which was also linked to from the police department’s Twitter account, was widely criticized on social media. The Guardian reported that the post was penned by an officer named Aaron Dilks:

Dilks prefaced his post by stating that he was not making a judgment on whether the shooting was justified. “This is about the Fenton Precinct making residents aware of a ‘hot’ topic and learning from this incident so Fenton never loses a child’s life,” he wrote.
After confirming that he wrote the post, Dilks referred all other inquiries to a county force spokesman. When asked whether he regretted the post, Dilks hung up the phone.

The St. Louis County Police have since taken the post down and issued an apology:

The NYPD had its own social media blunder in the midst of protests against the non-indictment of an officer in the death of Eric Garner. Joanne Jaffe, chief of the community affairs at the NYPD, sent the following tweet:

It immediately backfired:

After its previous Twitter fail, the NYPD should know better by now. In internal education materials obtained by The Verge, the NYPD simply urges its members to “use hashtags” with no mention of the possible consequences.

Screenshots via Slate

Publish date: December 4, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT