Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018
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Vermilion PD asks Facebook users to stop blaming them for Louisiana teacher arrest

  • Vermilion-22948401-jpg

    City of Vermilion, Ohio sign.

  • Teacher-Handcuffed

    In this Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, image made from a video provided by KATC-TV, middle-school English teacher Deyshia Hargrave speaks during a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting in Abbeville, La., west of New Orleans. Hargrave was removed from the school board meeting, forcibly handcuffed and jailed after questioning pay policies during a public comment period.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Teacher-Handcuffed-1

    This photo made available by the Abbeville City Jail, La., shows Deyshia Hargrave under arrest Monday, June 8, 2018.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

People are incorrectly sending the Vermilion Police Department hate mail over an incident in Louisiana, and Chief Christopher Hartung is tired of it.

As the department prepares for an incoming winter storm that Chief Hartung calls “Snowpocalypse,” the officers have dealt with an influx of spiteful comments, direct messages, and posts on its Facebook page. However, social media users are confusing the Vermilion PD in Ohio with the Vermilion Parish school board in Abbeville, La., where a teacher was arrested Monday and forcibly removed from a school board meeting for arguing against a superintendent’s pay raise.

The issue has become so contentious that the Vermilion Parish school board office went on lockdown Tuesday, but dozens are still overwhelming the Ohio police department located roughly 1,100 miles north. Chief Hartung has kept a watchful eye over Facebook notifications, but the posts riddled with profanities are so relentless, he’s needed to keep his phone on its charger.

“It feels like I’m playing Call of Duty online with a bunch of 12-year-olds,” Chief Hartung said.

As a response to all the messages, Vermilion PD asked followers to stop sending hate mail on its page Wednesday.

 

“[The comments] wouldn’t have had the traction or the notoriety had I not posted,” Chief Hartung said. “The problem is — and you find this out in police work especially when you monitor a Facebook page — any time there’s an association with wrongdoing, the social media responses absolutely steamroll. So it’s important that I put that out right away to try to stop that.”

Chief Hartung said the department hasn’t received any physical mail or phone calls because most people would’ve then recognized the Ohio ZIP code or address. He also said he hasn’t replied directly to many of the commenters because he’s trying to minimize interactions with people “who just love anarchy.”

“You can’t try to have a reasonable discussion with an unreasonable person,” Chief Hartung said. “Unfortunately, you’re going to get a few trolls who have their own agendas, but that just comes with the territory. As long as the bulk of the objectively reasonable people get the message, I’m happy.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at jmiller@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @miller_jimmy.

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