LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Louisville Metro Police officer and department spokesman in charge of social media accounts has been disciplined for a tweet about marijuana that violated policy.
In an April 30 letter to Officer Matthew Sanders, who works in the department’s media and public relations office, Chief Steve Conrad sustained a finding of "conduct unbecoming" for a tweet Sanders sent on the department's official Twitter account on April 20, according to documents released by police this week.
In the now-deleted post, Sanders tweeted:
4/20 – National Weed Day
4/22- National "random" Drug Test day
4/23 – National Unemployment Day
The tweet was quickly criticized, with one Twitter user replying, “4/20 National why is a preteen in charge of the ‘official’ LMPD twitter day."
In addition Metro Councilman Brandon Coan tweeted in response "I can't tell you how many times I've begged LMPD to get more active on Nextdoor, where citizens are desperate for online, community-oriented policing and actionable crime information but, instead, this is what we continue to get."
Sanders, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, was ordered to undergo counseling for violating police policy, according to the chief's letter.
A bill to legalize medical marijuana passed a Kentucky state House committee earlier this year, while Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell announced last week he would no longer prosecute cases involving small amounts of the drug.
While still illegal at the federal level, recreational or medical marijuana is permitted in 33 states and the District of Columbia, according to Governing.com.
Conrad said Sanders' tweet "has been brought to my attention" and based on the information provided to him, a memorandum from Sanders and "other supporting documentation," he found the officer violated the conduct unbecoming statute.
LMPD's Twitter and Facebook pages have become more playful or unprofessional depending on whom you ask in the last few years.
For example, the social media posts use memes and often a dozen or more hashtags, for example calling guns “#pewpews” and referring to cocaine as “#boogersugar.”
The department, like many across the country, uses social media to interact and communicate with the public on unsolved cases or to tout cases that have been solved.
At one point, after being criticized on Twitter for a Facebook post that wrote a lengthy lighthearted story about an officer arresting a man with a weapon, the department put up a Facebook poll on whether citizens enjoyed the way police were using social media. The results of the Facebook poll were overwhelmingly positive.
The reviews have been harsher on Twitter, with many users accusing police of trivializing important issues.
In an interview, Coan said he has seen several LMPD social media posts "I think are unprofessional, counterproductive and offensive.
"I’ve seen enough of them that they just highlight to me the stark absence of real responsive online communication."
However, Coan also applauded a recent social media effort by LMPD to ensure people remove guns from their cars so they are not stolen.
Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for the department, said the tone of the April 20 tweet was improper and "we had a conversation about that."
However, she said LMPD has been trying to strike a balance between information and humor to reach an audience the department had not been communicating with before. And she noted the audience for the department's social media accounts has risen dramatically in the last few years.
Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved. Reporter Travis Ragsdale contributed to this story.