With each flippant, demeaning post on social media, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office erodes a little of its standing as a professional law enforcement organization dedicated to public safety.
This week, the Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook about a Port Richey woman who called for help with a pressurized dry ice container. The woman told deputies she is trying to get pregnant by artificial insemination and had mishandled a vial for storing sperm and was worried about it exploding. Deputies and firefighters responded and took the vacuum bottle apart for her. She remarked in an interview with the Times about how professionally the responding personnel had handled the unusual call, even refusing to tell nosy neighbors what was going on.
Then, the next day on the Sheriff's Office Facebook page, a post appeared describing the incident — along with a stock photo of a woman looking unmistakably grossed out. It drew dozens of comments, some unbothered by the playful approach as others denounced it as mocking and distasteful. The agency's spokeswoman says that's the point — to engage with the public and show what deputies are doing every day. The Sheriff's Office frequently posts photos of wanted criminals and people being arrested, including one last November of a man weeping on the ground in handcuffs as deputies gripped his dreadlocks. The headline: "Sad criminal of the day."
Social media is a growing component of law enforcement operations, even serving as a vehicle for tips in cases. But tone matters. Professionalism matters. So here's a maxim: When in doubt, don't. As the hopeful mother told the Times, "I'm not going to support a Sheriff's Office that thinks it's okay to belittle their community." Are you listening, Sheriff Chris Nocco?