Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old child recently killed by a Cleveland Police officer. At the time, he was playing with an air gun that was missing its orange tip. The officer mistook it for a real gun and, within two seconds of encountering the boy, shot Tamir Rice dead.
Tensions are high over this incident, and other recent police-related shootings. So sensitivity to the public perception of police is important, particularly if you are a police department.
Someone should have told the social media manager for the St. Louis Police Department. In a post that was meant to warn families about the dangers of children playing with real-looking toy guns, they instead ended up creating a P.R. mess for the department.
The message seemed to convey that St. Louis Police officers had a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to situations like this, which Chief Jon Belmar, via a statement, said was simply not the case:
“The post conveyed the message that my officers respond to calls involving a child with a gun with indiscretion and little regard for life. I want to emphasize that my officers respond to calls with discernment, and have the highest regard for human life. We train officers to take all facts and circumstances into consideration when making decisions about using force.”
Belmar also referred to the post as a “misguided communication strategy” and said it was “insensitive to Tamir’s family and the sorrow they are currently experiencing.”
Chief Belmar stated that new social media guidelines will be put in place.