Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ferguson Notes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ferguson Notes

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS COUNTY > Facebook post by county police officer causes flap * An unauthorized Facebook post by a St. Louis County police officer Thursday raised a stir on social media.

Written by an officer assigned to the Fenton precinct, the message linked the death of a Cleveland youth to a warning on the danger of toy guns that to some indicated that county police shoot first and ask questions later.

Tamir Rice died Nov. 22 when a police officer, unaware that the object in the 12-year-old's hand was a toy pellet pistol, shot the youth in a Cleveland park.

The incident has become part of the national conversation on police tactics and race that has surfaced since the July chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City and the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The Facebook post was intended as a caution for parents and youngsters about toy guns that can be mistaken by police for real weapons, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.

Headlined "Kids will be Kids?" the county police officer wrote in part, "This article is not about this boy losing his life, whether this was a justified shooting or, whether the cops acted too fast. 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."

County police tweeted a link to the post which was almost immediately removed after accusations on social media that the message reflected insensitivity to the Rice family and the overarching issues raised by the deaths this year of African- Americans at the hands of white police officers in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson and elsewhere.

"MAYBE the St. Louis County Police Department should think twice before tweeting stuff like this," one Twitter user posted.

"Shockingly insensitive," tweeted several others.

Belmar addressed the outcry in a statement posted midafternoon Thursday on the department Facebook page.

"The intention of the post was to inform citizens about the potential danger of Airsoft or pellet guns resembling real guns," the chief wrote. "However, the post was a misguided communication strategy and was offensive to many people."

Belmar acknowledged that the original post "conveyed the message" that county officers may exercise little discretion when responding to reports of a child with a gun. …

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