Saratoga Springs Police Department Responds To Officer's Tweet

May 10, 2018

Credit WAMC

A social media post about addiction by a Saratoga Springs police officer does not reflect the thinking or the policies of the city, according to the police chief and public safety commissioner. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard has this exclusive.

In a tweet posted on an account that appeared to belong to Saratoga Springs Police Officer Shane Marshall, a block of text reads in part:

“Addiction is a choice, allowing addicts to believe it’s a disease only enables them and gives them an excuse to feel sorry for themselves and continue what they’re doing. You don’t have a disease, you have a weak mind. You have no self control, all you have is your drugs. I don’t feel the least bit sorry for any of you. Tough love is going to make American great again.”

Asked about the tweet, Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch tells WAMC opioid addiction is a complex issue. He said the department believes people addicted to drugs deserve compassion.

“We do recognize that addiction is a disease regardless of how it started. And I would just mention that police are generally involved with people in a moment of crisis and therefore the reasons of why somebody might be suffering with an addiction is irrelevant at that moment,” said Veitch. “So we expect our officers, regardless of their beliefs, regarding any issue, to deliver professional, compassionate police service at the moment that they’re needed.”

The tweet was posted at 8:01 p.m. on Tuesday. By Thursday, the tweet and the account were deleted.

Veitch would not comment on whether the issue was being addressed internally.

Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin said the tweet does not reflect the policies of the city or the public safety department.

He said grouping all users of opioids or those addicted to drugs into “one category is wrong.”

“I wish I could say that Saratoga Springs was immune from this problem, but it’s not. And there’s a whole lot of different stories about ways that people became addicted,” said Martin.

Martin said the tweet highlights the importance of social media awareness and training at all levels.

“I’m going to make sure that we’re exerting all of the efforts that we can to have the training for all of the public safety employees in each of the sub-departments so that they understand the impact of social media,” said Martin.

Chief Veitch said the police department has a social media policy and training is provided when officers are hired. He said it’s a fine line and the department wants to ensure that its policies do not infringe on an officer’s free speech.

On the other hand, Veitch says, guidelines do prohibit speech that could harm the reputation or professionalism of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

“I think as we go on in social media and clearly it’s a major part of many people’s lives including police officers today, common sense and decency really need to be at the forefront of our thoughts,” said Veitch. “I would just like to mention that not only for police officers but I think for everybody: we need to be careful that we don’t vilify people for maybe a comment that they posted or a comment that they made – maybe not thinking it through, maybe in the heat of the moment, maybe taken out of context – I think we should just be balanced with how we do it. We need to thoroughly make sure that we understand the motivations behind it. And I don’t think any of us would want our entire character or our entire being judged by one maybe misguided social media post or comment that we made publicly.”