Cop Shops Around The Nation Think It's Hilarious To Crack Jokes About Coronavirus-Contaminated Drugs

from the shitposting-away-your-credibility dept

At a time when people are getting hit with a lot of misinformation, and trust in law enforcement is at an all-time low, why in world would you do something like this?

Two dozen police departments, 10 journalists and radio stations, one Army substance abuse program, and a candidate for local sheriff have spread a claim on Facebook about meth possibly being contaminated with the novel coronavirus.

Some spread the false claim in an attempt at humor or to trick people into turning in their drugs, while others appear to have believed it was real.

“P.S.A WARNING: If you have recently purchased Meth, it may be contaminated with the Corona Virus. Please take it to the Merrill Police Department and we will test it for free,” said the most popular post from the Merrill Police Department in Wisconsin, which has been shared over 6,500 times and further spread through screenshots.

The Merrill Police Department updated its post 24 hours later with a non-apology and a “we’re just concerned about the well being of the people we lied to” statement.

It’s been 24 hrs so let’s bring this full circle. That last post really made the rounds and it sparked a lot of opinions, emotions, and touched some tender spots. Unfortunately it spawned some rather personal commentary too.

Just to give you some history, we have actually experienced people report their illegal drugs being stolen, being ripped off in a drug deal, being sold a look-a-like illegal substance, etc. We have even experienced drunk drivers coming to pick up arrested drunk drivers as their “sober responsible party”. So this attempt, although a long shot, still had some possibility behind it. We will take those easy grabs at removing poison from our community whenever we can. That is our role which we un-apologetically must fulfill.

I’m sure it’s the “personal commentary” that hurt the most, as commenters showed up to tell the Merrill PD just how stupid and wrong its original post was. The tone deafness continues throughout the update, culminating in the ridiculous assertion that the best thing that could happen to someone struggling with addiction is some time in jail and an arrest on their record.

It is our hope that an arrest would be the positive catalyst someone may need to start recovery.

This wasn’t the only police department to capitalize on coronavirus fears in hopes of making some easy arrests. While some of these posts may have been poor attempts at humor, local reporters made things worse by covering these announcements as though they were factual. Here’s a Texas ABC affiliate acting as a stenographer for pure bullshit:

Police in central Texas say they have reason to believe methamphetamine in Blanco County may be contaminated with the coronavirus and should be checked.

The offer comes in a public service announcement posted by the Johnson City Police Department to Facebook.

And, as if to demonstrate law enforcement’s lack of originality, here’s coverage of an Arkansas police department’s version of the coronavirus/meth hoax, although this one does at least points out the post was not well-received by residents.

St. Francis County Sheriff’s Office in Arkansas shared a post on their Facebook page saying any recently purchased methamphetamine could be contaminated with coronavirus.

The department is offering to test the meth for free in the privacy of your home, if you’re uncomfortable with bringing drugs to a police department.

The sheriff’s Office posted the announcement to its official Facebook page Wednesday morning and it’s causing a lot of backlash.

Here’s an NBC affiliate with some straightforward reporting that inadvertently highlights everything that’s wrong with these “jokes.”

Bennington Police tap into coronavirus fears to catch meth users

Those who think — as these law enforcement agencies clearly do — that this is all harmless fun need to recalibrate their definitions of “harmless” and “fun.” It is not harmless when government agencies lie about health concerns. It makes them yet another untrustworthy source. The next time they need to insert themselves into the discussion about health — say, during a quarantine — people will be less likely to believe them and will have every reason to doubt their motives.

The same goes for the journalists who delivered uncritical reporting of these bogus PD statements. When your credibility is undermined, it’s hard to win that trust back. In the case of coronavirus, lives will be on the line and sources of life-saving info will be viewed skeptically. That hurts everyone. And all for a couple of cheap law enforcement laughs.

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Comments on “Cop Shops Around The Nation Think It's Hilarious To Crack Jokes About Coronavirus-Contaminated Drugs”

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41 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

The next time they need to insert themselves into the discussion about health — say, during a quarantine — people will be less likely to believe them and will have every reason to doubt their motives.

People are already unlikely to trust police and already have every reason to doubt their motives. Sadly, that ship has long since sailed. This latest story merely proves not trusting police was the right choice.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

Ronald Reagan laughed about people with AIDS, by the way. And the reaction to the administration’s doing nothing about the disease was much the same thing as mine to that “joke”. The deaths of the less fortunate aren’t a comedy bit; I’d much appreciate it if y’all would stop thinking otherwise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

The deaths of the less fortunate aren’t a comedy bit;

When they actively vote against their own best interests by voting for the person who advocates against nationalized health care because it’s socialist, then yes, they are a comedy bit.

Stupid people are gonna stupid, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m not going to laugh at them while they do it. If they die as a result of their stupidity, then so be it.

Some people need to learn the hard way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

I’m sure Republicans felt the same way about gay people at the height of the AIDS epidemic.

I doubt it. They thought the gay community was being punished by god, right up until heterosexuals started contracting it. It wasn’t a matter of being stupid, but being smitten.

This is why I’m fine with letting nature take its course, and letting the strong (read: intelligent) survive. If you want to vote against nationalized health care because you have a problem with socialism, then frankly if you contract something and can’t afford to take care of it, you should take one for the team, stand by your principles, and drop dead like a good capitalist.

The fact that I find this level of stupidity comical is what it is. It’s what I use to cope with being called "libtard," "snowflake," and "human scum."

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Oh the wolf is real NOW is it? Yeah, I'm sure.'

It is not harmless when government agencies lie about health concerns. It makes them yet another untrustworthy source. The next time they need to insert themselves into the discussion about health — say, during a quarantine — people will be less likely to believe them and will have every reason to doubt their motives.

If they’re not only going to lie about a health risk but joke about it and when caught display absolutely zero remorse they’ve proven that they are absolutely not to be trusted, right alongside those either stupid enough or corrupt enough to just parrot what they said, and while they may have found it funny this time if an outbreak does occur in that area and people ignore any warnings or advice they give because they’re known liars they’ll have only themselves to blame.

Anyone among the police who think it’s funny to joke about a potential health crisis and undermine the trust of the public has no business being employed by the public, and any reporter who goes along with that has no business doing their job either.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

It is our hope that an arrest would be the positive catalyst someone may need to start recovery.

How about you get them into a rehab program/facility instead? Tossing someone in jail is a similar kind of coin flip, but at least there’s less of a chance that the “offender” will face police violence while they wait for arraignment or whatever. Besides, drug abuse is a healthcare issue, not a criminal issue.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The addiction itself is a mental health concern. The brain (and often the body) forms an unhealthy dependence on whatever it is that one is addicted to. Naturally, a number of cases of drug addictions start because of an issue with someone’s mental/emotional health, but even when it’s not, the ongoing addiction itself is a mental health problem; in fact, if there isn’t an underlying mental health issue leading to the addiction, there isn’t really any other issue underlying it other than a tendency to follow their peers or something (though that, too, can be addressed in therapy), so there is no “root cause” below the addiction itself.

Perhaps you’re confusing “mental health concern” with “mental illness” or “mental disorder” and don’t think that a drug addiction itself falls under either category. That’s not entirely true. Setting aside that addiction is generally considered a mental disorder if it’s unhealthy, mental health also covers things like stress, temporary or chronic, loss of a loved one (including a pet), relationship or family issues, unhealthy relationships, etc.

Mental health care, when done properly, will try to address any underlying issues behind things like drug addiction as well as the addiction itself, and it covers a broad variety of issues. It’s not perfect, it can’t fix every problem, and different providers will often give different results, but you seriously underestimate the full scope of what goes into mental health care.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"Do you think that all drug addicts are drug addicts due to a mental health concern?"

By definition that would be correct. Whatever the drug type the end result is an addiction by the user to the alteration of brain chemistry the drug induces. Said addiction can be physical or exclusively mental, but neither is easy to be rid of.

And that’s why every clinically acknowledged drug treatment program is heavily focused around behavioral therapy and counseling rather than simply "Here, take two of these and call me in the morning".

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Does a health concern cause drug addiction? Or did something else get a person involved in drugs?

Irrelevant. Someone’s destructive addiction to drugs is a healthcare issue; so long as they’re not a drug dealer (in which case yes put them in jail), getting them into rehab should be the absolute top priority. I mean, if you don’t do it for their sake, then do it for the sake of anyone who might be directly affected by their drug abuse (e.g., addicts who share the same needles).

You’re not helping drug addicts by tossing them in jail and putting an arrest on their criminal record. That can prevent addicts from getting jobs, which can ruin any chance they have of getting back into society and thus turn them back towards their addictions out of desperation. You help addicts by getting them clean, helping them get back into society, and not ruining their lives because of their drug abuse.

And by the by, one of the root causes of drug abuse — and the proliferation of illegal drugs — is the economy. Poor people become desperate people, and desperate people may turn to drugs as a way of numbing their physical (or mental) pain. But poverty is a failure not of personal morality, but of of government policies. If you want to attack one of the root causes of drug abuse, start with getting the government to raise the minimum wage and tax the hell out of the One Percent.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I actually heard such a message. First thing that came to my mind was the drug they mentioned was illegal. Period. This had to be a set up for the gullible. Don’t care about the come on in’s or we’ll help you out messages. I’m not one they would be interested in.

This is not the first time LEO has come up with a message of some sort to get the unwary into a position to be arrested. I’ve heard of the winners of sweepstakes and lotteries who needed to come in to receive their award.

At this point a public service announcement I would view with high skepticism. There’s just been too many shenanigans pulled in the past for me to have much faith in LEO. If you call the cops to help you out, you’re liable to have to deal with a dead pet at the least. At the worst, your kin is liable to have to deal with a dead you. That kind of help, I don’t need.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In fairness, this is definitely worse than the fake sweepstakes and and lotteries because it involves disinformation and public health issues and isn’t narrowly targeted towards criminals that they already had probable cause and a warrant to arrest. It’s one thing to send misinformation to a specific known suspect who they already have evidence to arrest and that information only affects that one specific person, but it’s quite another to capitalize on fears stemming from a real and fairly serious public health crisis by broadcasting misinformation to everyone in order to create a dragnet to capture any number of people—many of whom were previously unknown to law enforcement—and have them submit evidence of their own guilt in the process.

I agree that the claims were suspicious from the start, but it does seem like a new low.

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