The Anchorage Police Department’s sometimes apparently fictitious Facebook feature – What Not To Do Wednesday (WNTDW) – has been shut down apparently due to the efforts of a woman who works for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Alaska.
What makes this story more interesting, however, is that the city’s major media somehow for years managed to somehow ignore local law enforcement playing loose with the truth on social media on a weekly basis.
With all the focus aimed at fact-checking every word coming out of former President Donald Trump’s mouth, the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) and others somehow overlooked the questionable bloviating by the law enforcement agency in the state’s largest city.
WNTDW regularly posted dubious stories after which APD’s spokesman refused to say where the agency was getting the information, as was reported here several times.
A June 2019 WNTDW post claimed a local resident “with a fleshy human body” had been run down and injured after trying to stop a thief from stealing a front-end loader by jumping in front of it.
The WNTDW post claimed the man “bled,” but “survived with all of his faculties still intact. The bad guy got caught and went to jail on a whole bunch of charges.”
APD at first ignored a request for information on the assault, and then refused to reveal where the front-end loader attack happened, the names of any of the parties involved or what charges were filed.
APD’s response came in the form of an email from spokesman MJ Thim, whose phone tells you to email him because he’s too busy to answer it. His email response was that “we don’t have any additional information to release.”
Well that and a chastisement for using the term “fatboy” in the request for more information in the case of the front-end loader versus the “fleshy human body.”
“We’ve never described someone as a ‘fatboy,'” he wrote. “It’s an offensive term.”
Politically correct speech
Apparently “fleshy human body” is less offensive than “fat boy,” or a fighting “Mr. Lovebird” and his “sweetie” who ended up in trouble after an encounter with police that sounds bogus on its face as described on WNTDW last week:
“We showed up and made contact with the lovebirds who wanted nothing to do with us. Both denied a fight even occurred and neither one showed any sign of being injured. As such we gave them our typical ‘be nice’ speech and told them they could be on their way.
“Mr. Lovebird decided he wanted to fight us even though neither he nor his sweetie had been charged. SIGH. His behavior was such that we were finally forced to arrest him. As we put handcuffs on him he fought the whole time and eventually we ended up in one big pile on the ground.”
So one is to believe APD met with these people, interviewed them separately (as is standard procedure), concluded the report of their fighting in an Anchorage parking lot had been overblown, told them they could be on their way but to be nice to each other, and Mr. Lovebird responded by attacking police?
Was Mr. Lovebird black? The question is unavoidable given the story sounds so much like one of those police excuses for overreacting that have ignited Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
Suffice to say, the story didn’t pass the sniff test of the ACLU’s Megan Edge, who promptly took issue with “today’s propaganda post from @Anchorage Police.” Edge, it needs to be noted, is a former ADN reporter who was just a little too old school for the new ADN.
In simple English, she didn’t like having smoke blown up her ass and was prone to react to it rather than accept it as part of the job. It is probably a good thing she left the newspaper because she appears to have far more influence in her new job with the ACLU than any of the media had with APD, where Thim has taken to dealing with reporters he doesn’t like by simply not responding to those emails he asks to be sent.
He is the Maj. Major of Anchorage public information officers for those familiar with the novel “Catch 22.” Maj. Major was the officer only in his office when he was out of his office, obviously making it impossible for anyone to speak with him.
This is a “Catch 22” – a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule – for which the book is titled.
A review of emails would indicate last time Thim answered a request from this reporter was on Nov. 20, 2019 when he was asked for the name of the driver of the motor vehicle that struck and seriously injured Anchorage Pacific University skier Hannah Halverson on a downtown Anchorage street.
His answer then was this: “Thanks Craig and good morning! You will need to make a records request for further research. My unit is unable to help on this inquiry.”
Since then, all email exchanges have looked like this:
Others have reported similar treatment after asking Thim questions he didn’t want to answer.
Alaska’s News Source – the Anchorage TV station which picked up on the stink being raised by Edge – did say Thim responded to its questions about WNTDW with a “lengthy statement on Friday saying that the department will be retiring ‘What Not To Do Wednesday’.”
But it, too, got the Maj. Major treatment when it asked about which employee penned the recent post and “how providing potentially false narratives to the community is effective public safety messaging.”
When Thim – a former TV talking head in the city – was first asked by this website about dubious WNTDW posts in December 2017, he explained that “when we pick the public safety tip for WNTDW, we ask members (officers, detectives, dispatchers..etc.) to share situations they’ve encountered over the years to use as examples of what not to do. We pick a few to include in the post. We don’t ask for the names/date/time/location/case number because that’s not the intent of the post. Many of the situations happened years ago.”
He at that time went on to suggest that the ends justify the means in WNTDW Facebook posts, and thus a lower standard of accuracy is acceptable.
Over the years, there were indications that some of the WNTDW posts resulted from the serious embellishment of those “antidotes (sic) or stories.” Such embellishments in hopes of increasing audience engagement would fit the description of propaganda alleged by Edge.
Over the years, the responses to the WNTDW posts have appeared to be overwhelmingly positive. The evidence would indicate Thim was speaking the truth when he told News Source that the campaign started as “an unconventional creative approach to community building” and solicited feedback that was “overwhelmingly positive.”
But the posts were never really about “community building.” The posts were about promoting APD. When a “humorous” August 2019 post about a man with obvious mental issues drew some immediate negative feedback, APD quickly disappeared the post.
It subsequently offered a warning about the risks of social media: “DON’T post a draft version of WNTDW. Which we did earlier today. Note to self……. SIGH. Do you ever have a Wednesday that feels like a Monday? Yeah….. we’ll be posting that one again once we have the FINAL draft.”
The final draft never appeared, and Timm denied the original post was disappeared to eliminate the negative comments that were stacking up beneath it. But the last thing APD wanted out of WNTDW was negative comments.
WNTDW was clearly intended to make APD officers look like Sheriff Andy Taylor, the star of the old, hit TV comedy “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“Sheriff Taylor’s level-headed approach to law enforcement makes him the scourge of local moonshiners and out-of-town criminals, while his abilities to settle community problems with common-sense advice, mediation, and conciliation make him popular with his fellow citizens” is how Wikipedia summarizes the show’s lead character.
The sheriff is the perfect vision of a happy and fun-loved law enforcement officer, like the APD friends of “Copper.”
And who was Copper you ask.
“Seriously,” APD Tweeted at the time. “He stole a perfectly good donut. FROM A COP.
“That’s a straight-up felony. Also…it’s rude.”
The Tweet was highlighted by emojis of an upside-down smiley face and a donut.
Whether poor Copper “stole” the donut is debatable given that the video clearly shows it was on the ground when the squirrel grabbed it. Policemen don’t usually eat their donuts off the ground.
Not to mention that picking off the ground a $1 donut that appears to belong to no one is NOT a felony. The squirrel should probably have been given a reward for cleaning up APD litter.
But the department spun the issue beautifully. That’s what great propagandists do. Thim deserves credit as APD’s propaganda chief.
Unfortunately Edge, and by association the ACLU, apparently doesn’t think the local police department should be in the propaganda business.
As for cute little Copper, one can only wonder where he is today.
Sadly, if he continued running around the busy APD parking lot because he’d found some success finding food on the ground there, he is today probably somewhere over the rainbow with Tiger the cat.