Crime and Justice

State police apologize, remove ‘inappropriate’ Facebook post

Vermont State Police Facebook post taken down, with an apology; it was based on the song “Because the Night.”

Vermont State Police are apologizing and removed a posting from their Facebook page after getting backlash over the message and its timing. 

The posting Wednesday night showed two troopers standing at attention before an American flag outside a state police barracks at night, captioned with lyrics from the song “Because the Night,” written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen. 

The caption read:

“They can’t hurt you now… 

Because the night belongs to us.”

It’s a post that created controversy on social media with online commenters before and after it was taken down, with some calling the posting tone-deaf and racist while others saw no problem with it and were upset with the decision to remove it.  

Four hours after state police posted the apology to its Facebook page Thursday afternoon, it had more than 700 comments.

Shortly after state police removed it Thursday, BTV Copwatch wrote on its own Facebook page above an image of the post: 

“This was posted last night, and then deleted this morning when the Vermont State Police apparently realized they said the quiet part out loud. 

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“They’re less likely to get away with transparent domination — gotta keep the oppression insidious!”  

The post Wednesday night on the state police Facebook page came amid a time of protests across the country and in Vermont over racism and police brutality. 

And just hours earlier Wednesday, it was announced that no officers would be charged directly in the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, in Louisville.

State police, in a post to their own Facebook page Thursday, stated they heard those upset with the Wednesday night posting.

“Last night, we posted an image with a caption that quoted a Patti Smith song lyric that we shouldn’t have posted,” that posting stated.

“It was especially inappropriate given the timing,” the posting added. “We have heard your concerns loud and clear and understand the hurt this post has caused. We share those concerns, and have removed the post.”

Rep. Brian Cina, P/D-Burlingon, said Thursday afternoon he found the initial post from state police upsetting and heard from several constituents who felt the same way. 

“I saw the original posting and it was concerning to me because the time of that posting, considering the Breonna Taylor situation, seemed to me insensitive,” Cina said, particularly the line referring to police controlling the night.  

“The tone of it,” he added, “and the timing for people who have experienced systemic racism and trauma from the police, that’s very triggering.”

Cina said he contacted state police and spoke to Maj. Ingrid Jonas, who told him that an apology had just been sent out and the post had been taken down.

“Contrary to some of the comments you see, I actually think it was strong, not weak, for the state police to take it down and acknowledge their mistake,” Cina said. “I appreciated that they could see people’s concern.” 

Adam Silverman, a Vermont State Police spokesperson, wrote in an email Thursday that the law enforcement agency was declining further comment on the situation.

“We’re going to let the public apology speak for itself,” Silverman wrote.  

“We know that so many members of our community are hurting right now, and we apologize unreservedly for contributing to that hurt in any way,” that apology post stated. “We hope the community would know it was not our intention to cause pain, to wound. We do not feel that to be our job.” 

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That posting also stated that a team of troopers and civilian staff prepare and share the Facebook posts.

“We know that each member of that team has the best intentions, always — that’s why they’re on the team,” the posted stated, adding that the agency would work to improve its vetting process moving forward.

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Alan J. Keays

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