Big Lake Chief of Police says resident wrongfully shamed after Facebook post

Updated: October 25, 2019 03:47 PM

The chief of police in Big Lake has an important message about social media and what can happen when it's used the wrong way. It has to do with a Facebook post about an older man supposedly taking pictures of kids.

"And we put it to rest in about two minutes because it's a longtime resident well known to all of us" said Big Lake Chief of Police Joel Scharf.


Scharf said social media can be a powerful tool, when used responsibly. "But posting pictures of things taking place is not a substitute for calling law enforcement."

The incident started this week when a concerned parent posted pictures on a community Facebook forum of a pick-up truck parked in the neighborhood. They wrote a "creeper man" was taking pictures of kids at the bus stop. They tagged the Big Lake Police Department and suggested they look into it.
The forum has about 10,000 followers and the post was shared over and over. The chief didn't see the post until hours later when someone reached out personally.

"What should happen, and what the vast majority of our residents do, is when you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood call the police and let them investigate what's taking place" said Scharf.

Big Lake Police ran the license plate on the truck and found the man. It turns out he's a long-time resident who was lost trying to find his son's new home. The chief says he did the right thing by pulling over to use his phone to call for directions.

"He's got an old flip-phone and he held it up in front of him while he dialed it," said Scharf. "And that was the extent of what he was doing."

Scharf talked with him again the next day. The man was heartbroken after being called names by people in the community, including "pervert." 

"He's still in tears today" said Scharf. "He's 71 and he's lived here for 50 years. This is his hometown and he feels like when he steps out of his home everybody looks at him as what was coined on Facebook, which was the pervert."

Chief Scharf said if the concern had been called in, they would have checked it out immediately and nobody would have been shamed publicly. Instead, an older gentleman is devastated in his own home town.

"Social media is a very powerful thing" said Scharf. "I'm really into it and enjoy watching it and working with it. But it can also be very harming and damaging to people too when it's not used in a responsible way." 

The message: Call police right away. Don't reach out to them on social media.

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Kevin Doran

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