The ACLU of Nevada swiftly criticized the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office yesterday after the department’s social media accounts encouraged people to call them if they knew of anyone with an outstanding warrant.
“Dangerous and dumb,” is what ACLU Executive Director Athar Haseebullah called WCSO’s Valentine’s Day tweet.
“Do you know someone with an outstanding warrant? Someone who failed to appear in court? Someone who is involved in illegal activity? Give us a call with their location and we’ll take care of the rest,” WCSO posted online. “This Valentine’s Day we’re offering limited-edition platinum bracelets, free transportation with a skilled driver, and a room with all the comforts you need.”
After numerous, high-profile instances of police violence captured on video by citizens and posted online in recent years, Haseebullah said WCSO’s posts were not funny.
“Calling the police on another community member is a very serious matter. Police interactions can turn deadly in a split second for any number of reasons, even when the person interacting with officers is innocent,” he said. “Time and time again, we have seen emergency calls weaponized against Black, Brown, and low-income people, so it’s not funny to imply that people should call the police because it’s Valentine’s Day.”
WCSO spokesperson Sarah Johns said the post was taken from other law enforcement agencies in the United States.
“We chose to release this version not for people to act maliciously, rather to provide a little bit of humor on community members’ feeds,” she said. “Our deputies are tasked by the Nevada Revised Statutes to arrest anyone with an outstanding warrant. We encourage community members who have an active warrant to tend to it immediately.”
Haseebullah questioned WCSO’s use of its resources.
“Calling the police on someone is deadly serious, not a topic for frivolity,” he added. “And frankly, I have questions about whether our community resources should be spent making dumb and inappropriate jokes on social media.”
He further told the sheriff’s office, “Since you have so much free time, enjoy the public records requests headed your way.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.