Sarnia police have removed a Twitter post about a woman who was arrested for allegedly shoplifting food and cleaning supplies, acknowledging that it was “not in keeping” with their “internal and community expectations.”
The tweet, which included a photo of the groceries in question, was posted on Friday afternoon and was titled: “Strike 3…. YOU ARE GOING FOR BAIL.”
It read: “A female was arrested today, after she was caught for the third time this month stealing from the same retail store. She was held for bail to prevent her from continuing to reoffend.” and included the hashtag #fivefingerdiscount.
“Social media is a useful tool for us to keep our community informed of current and emerging issues faced by our public and our officers,” Police Chief Derek Davis said in a statement posted to Twitter.
“As an organization, we work hard to ensure our communications are useful and informative, but we do not always get that right. We are in the process of a review of our social media policies and those changes will be shared with our members as we move forward.”
His statement comes after dozens of people took to social media to express their disdain for Sarnia police’s tweet, which some described as a “criminalization of poverty.” Many who posted also called for the person who made the post to be fired.
Among those who spoke out is registered nurse and equity advocate, Birgit Umaigba, who called this action by police an “abuse of power.”
“We know you hate the poor and unhoused. Please refrain from also shaming them publicly and STOP criminalizing them. It’s disgraceful,” she wrote in response to Sarnia Police Service’s tweet.
Umaigba further shared her thoughts in a post on her profile.
“I cannot imagine a nurse shaming a patient publicly and posting their condition,” she wrote.
“Such nurse would be fired and maybe lose their license. Why should the police get away with this?”
Eric Vallillee, of London, ON, also shared his thoughts on Twitter. He said that while stealing is wrong and police were right to arrest the woman, this tweet is “disgusting and whoever at Sarnia Police Service is behind it should be fired immediately.”
Aaron Hoyland chimed in writing that no one shoplifts pizza pockets and pancake mix “for the thrill of it.”
“Instead of posting photos like you just made a major drug bust, maybe connect this person with some supports so they don’t need to steal their (explicative) groceries,” the Edmonton, AB resident wrote in response to the tweet.
A screengrab of a now-deleted tweet by Sarnia police about a woman arrested for shoplifting. (Sarnia Police/Twitter)
Ottawa resident Michael Spratt pointed out that Davis’ statement does not offer an apology and called for swift action to fully address this situation and its impacts.
“Why was it wrong, what harm have you caused, who decided to post this, what steps have you taken to change, have you learned anything?,” he wrote.
On Friday evening, Mark Baxter, president of the Police Association of Ontario, responded to Sarnia police’s post with the following:
“She’ll be released tomorrow with conditions not to attend that retail store, and will no doubt be caught stealing again,” he wrote in a now-deleted tweet.
“We need bail reform passed for repeat violent offenders such as this. I wonder how many other times she stole but wasn’t caught.”
In a follow-up tweet, Baxter noted that his use of the word violent in that tweet was “clearly a typo” (sic) and apologized “for the confusion.”
CP24.com also reached out to the Sarnia Police Association, which represents SPS’s 180 sworn and civilian officers, for comment, but we have not heard back.
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