The picture was familiar to anybody who had followed the local news within the last week – the bullet-ridden Ford Explorer used in the failed getaway attempt by the Bank of the West robbers that ended with three people dead in North Stockton.
But the comment beneath it was starting – “Do not play around with the Police Force.”
And it was posted by – the MantecaPD?
At least that’s what one Twitter prankster wanted people to believe when they created a fake online account for the Manteca Police Department Thursday afternoon – complete with a picture of the department’s badge, a realistic description of the department’s individualized units and an actual link to the department’s website – and started commenting on pictures that people had linked to their own private profiles.
Ultimately the account was suspended within hours, but not before the user made joking inside comments to users and even made a post to a local person who had displayed a large bag of what appeared to be psilocybin mushrooms – declaring that their “Manteca hookup came thru – hit me up if you need some.”
“That amount can lead to serious punishment Young lady!” the account wrote.
A news story posted by a Portland news site about the recovery of the Tillamook cheese vans that were found in Copperopolis – which featured a picture of Police Chief Nick Obligacion standing next to the “mini loaf” VW buses – was even retweeted.
But according to Manteca Police Department Lieutenant Tony Souza, the department doesn’t utilize Twitter as a communication tool for the public, and anybody that did create a fictional account with the purpose of defrauding somebody under the color of authority could be treading on dangerous legal ground.
To keep the public informed about emergency situations that may emerge, the department, Souza said, uses Nixle – a widely-accepted law enforcement standard for sending notifications to those who sign up to receive them via their phone, email or web address.
An official Manteca Police Department Facebook page does exist, but Souza said it isn’t updated nearly as often as the city’s website – www.ci.manteca.us./police – that includes weekly summaries of major events and information that the departments wants to apprise residents of.
“If there’s information that somebody sees on the Internet and they’re not quite sure about it, we encourage them to call,” Souza said. “We haven’t heard anything about this today, and while it has the possibility of becoming something illegal if somebody were to use it to defraud somebody, just going and cutting and pasting a badge and filling in a website would be a First Amendment issue.
“We’re not thrilled to find out about things like that, and we encourage people to visit our actual website or to call if they have any questions or want to find out information.”