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Keizer Police miss mark on Valentine's Day
Oregon State Police, too. Can we please get these cops a class on social media management?
It’s not uncommon for public entities to participate in holiday celebrations on social media. And, as far as holidays go, Valentine’s Day is among the easiest for public agencies to participate in.
Don’t tell that to the folks who manage social media for the Keizer Police Department. Or Oregon State Police. Or, believe it or not, the folks at Salem-Keizer School District.
All three shared variations of a meme that goes something like this:
The posts on the Keizer Police Department Facebook page and Oregon State Police pages are still up, both with many hundreds of comments, but Salem-Keizer School District’s CTEC page appears to have removed their post.
A portion of the feedback on the two posts from KPD and OSP is supportive, but most of the resulting threads were community members finding fault with the posts. The following array of objections is a good sample of most of the negative feedback:
So…what’s the problem. Lighten up, right? It’s just a joke.
Sure, and that’s the argument made by many people in the comments on posts from both agencies. It’s a light-hearted (eh? eh? see what I did there?) jab at the relationship between police & community. At worst, a sentiment that could have used maybe some softening or context…right?
But it’s fair to examine if this really was some type of isolated social media faux pas? Or is it part of a larger pattern?
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Spoiler alert: It’s part of a larger pattern.
And that’s what makes a seemingly innocuous Valentine’s Day message (or, innocuous to some) seem completely tone deaf to a significant portion of the community they are meant to serve.
For example, if there weren’t Oregon State Police officers throughout Oregon that belong to anti-immigrant militia groups…maybe that Valentine’s Day message would have been perceived as playful.
If there weren’t police in Oregon that enjoy cozy relationships with violent christian nationalists…maybe this Valentine’s Day message would have been a fun play on words.
If Keizer Police hadn’t served as security and protection for a gathering of far-right extremists, where they also targeted peaceful protestors and ignored reports of mysterious cars and motorcycles following people through Keizer…maybe their post would have been a light way to connect with community.
If we didn’t have a cohort of Sheriff’s across Oregon that are openly flirting with extremist rhetoric and strategies to avoid their actual duties…maybe a Valentine’s Day message that misses the mark wouldn’t hurt a community so easily.
If the largest police force in the state didn’t target people of color…maybe “hearts skipping a beat” would be funny and not a reminder that, in this country, a traffic stop for people of color can mean that’s the last traffic stop they ever experience.
The point is, the relationship between law enforcement & significant portions of the community doesn’t really allow room for joking.
And when law enforcement agencies (and school districts…don’t forget CTEC) casually share a tone-deaf meme that has a far more serious meaning for many people, it comes across as a reminder.
It’s a reminder that cops operate on fear and force. And if you don’t wholly submit to the former, you might just meet the latter. And with the troubled state of law enforcement in Oregon (and across the country), that’s no fucking joke.
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