Snapchat is a popular image sharing app used to send a picture that quickly erases itself. However, many people do not realize that it is still possible to screenshot the image, so they unwisely use it to share illegal or problematic images. One police officer in Pennsylvania found this out the hard way after she used Snapchat to share an extremely racist message.
In the Snapchat that was viewed by all of former Officer Melissa Adamson’s followers, she was wearing her police uniform and had captioned the photo, “I’m the law today nigga.” Adamson was a recent hire at the Pitcairn Police Department for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One of the people who saw the Snap decided to save it and show it to her superiors. When the police department saw it, they decided to take prompt action.
In a post on the Pitcairn Police Department Facebook page, the department said that they “hold high integrity for the community we serve and this type of conduct will not be tolerated.” Adamson was fired shortly after the incident became public. It turned out that she was a very new employee who was still in her probationary period. Fortunately, since she had only been there a few weeks and worked part time, it does not seem like any citizens of the community were harmed due to any racism.
When asked about the situation, Adamson insisted that it was just “a stupid mistake,” and countered that she is not racist at all. According to Adamson, the picture was only brought to her superiors’ attention because it was mistakenly sent to a fellow officer who does not like Adamson. However, Adamson did not seem to have anything to say about the fact that she used a racial slur and implied that she was above the law. Instead, she just focused on complaining about the fact that it was brought to her boss’ attention.
The police department mentioned that “the picture alone does not constitute misconduct, it is symbolic speech and protected under the First Amendment.” However, even though Adamson’s behavior is not illegal, the department holds its officers to a high ethical standard. Therefore, they were able to determine that she would not pass her probationary period, so she was let go. It is possible that the post may have just earned a severe reprimand in the past, but in the wake of police violence against unarmed African Americans, any hint of racist behavior is not being tolerated by the police department.
The Mayor of McKeesport has also addressed the situation. In a post on the city’s Facebook page, the mayor explained that the former officer’s Snapchat “displays a degree of conduct and character that is far different from what I would expect from an officer in this city. It is absolutely unacceptable. Without hesitation, my office and the police chief’s office immediately concluded that this officer’s actions will not be tolerated in the City of McKeesport. She has been relieved of her duties, and her employment has been terminated.”
It may be slightly concerning to know that a woman who is comfortable using racial slurs was hired in the first place. However, it is reassuring to see that the Pitcairn Police Department took immediate action and did not allow such behavior to go unnoticed. Instead of waiting until Adamson’s Snapchat went viral and triggered outrage, they took care of the incident before the public was even really aware of the situation. If more police departments can step up and nip racist action in the bud, it may be possible to reduce the number of racially motivated episodes of police brutality.