When a South Carolina man criticized his local police department on Facebook for rounding up drug offenders rather than using resources to better prevent violent crime, the police chief threatened to hunt him down and arrest him for giving reasonable suspicion that he might be a criminal.
In a recent Facebook post the Columbia Police Department Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago announced that the department had seized around $40,000 worth of marijuana from an apartment during a drug investigation.
Resident Brandon Whitmer commented on the post, saying: “Maybe u should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that’s not bothering anyone. It’ll be legal here one day anyway.”
Santiago promptly responded via the CPD Facebook page: “@Brandon whitmer, we have arrested all the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.”
The post was quickly deleted and Santiago replaced it with another comment. But, the tone of the new post was less “sorry, it’s not right to threaten critics” and more “if you criticize the police and advocate marijuana reform, you may be a criminal.”
The new comment read: “This is Interim Chief Santiago posting. I was just notified that one of my staff members deleted my post. I put everyone on notice that if you advocate for the use of illegal substances in the City of Columbia then it’s reasonable to believe that you MIGHT also be involved in that particular activity, threat? [sic] Why would someone feel threaten [sic] if you are not doing anything wrong? Apply the same concept to gang activity or gang members. You can have gang tattoos and advocate that life style, but that only makes me suspicious of them, I can’t do anything until they commit a crime. So feel free to express yourself, and I will continue to express myself and what we stand for. I am always open to hearing how our citizens feel like we can be effective in fighting crime.”
In an unrelated incident, Santiago recently filed a defamation suit against a former Columbia police captain who said Santiago the chief was planning to plant drugs in the car of a top city official.