Across the U.S., tensions are high between members of law enforcement and the communities they’re supposed to serve and protect. The tension isn’t new, but more eyes are on law enforcement after the attention that was drawn to police brutality last year.
While the logical thing would be for departments to examine policies and relationships, the Durham County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina is doing just the opposite.
Last week, the @DurhamSheriff Twitter account posted a video of a new car in its fleet referred to as a “ghost.”
“This ‘ghost’ car will be used by our #CommunityPolicing & traffic unit. [With] its low profile graphics you’ll never see it coming, especially at night,” the department bragged on Twitter. “Make sure you’re not speeding, wear your seatbelt, and stay sober behind the wheel.”
The fact that Durham police are going out of their way to make themselves invisible to people so they can sneak up and catch them breaking the law didn’t sit well with anyone.
“If your priority is to help a community then this entire car should be able to be seen & hailed down like an ice cream truck,” @nolikefr wrote. “But instead it seems your priorities are to issue fines in a ‘gotcha’-style [manner].”
Others agreed and shamed the sheriff’s department for thinking this way.
Another point of contention was the possible cost of the car, which caused residents of Durham to express frustration with the allocation of their taxes.
“Nothing says ‘out of touch with community’ quite like a suped up Dodge Charger with hidden police graphics in a town with a per capita income of 34k,” said user @ZackyKaye.
Another Twitter user pointed out that she’d been pushing for more funding to a high school in the area that’s been in desperate need of upgrades and could have really benefitted from a fraction of the sheriff’s department budget.
There’s also the issue of safety. When the design of a law enforcement car, including the flashing lights that are supposed to signify you’re being pulled over, dramatically varies, there’s no easy way for people to quickly ascertain that the car seemingly demanding they stop is legitimate.
The Durham County Sheriff’s Department eventually responded to all the pushback and insisted the tweet had been intended as nothing more than “a lighthearted look at a tool our traffic unit uses to keep roads safe.” The department also said the tweet was “taken out of context for some.”
It was largely seen as a flimsy response to genuine concerns about the way the Durham sheriff and deputies are approaching their community.
“The context is clear,” one Twitter user said. “You’ve got a cop car to drive up ticket revenue and scare people, not actually keep them safe.”
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