Police in New Zealand have been delivered a lesson in community standards after a spectacularly bad-taste social media post that involved humour and death.
The force on Monday used a meme from the American version of sitcom The Office to illustrate how it felt when officers had to inform family members about a fatality.
A caption above a picture of Steve Carell read: “When we have to tell someone their family member has died in a crash.”
Writing on the picture read: “This is the worst!”
The “tone-deaf” post was condemned for trivialising death and was widely shared across social media before New Zealand Police deleted it and apologised.
One commenter, Nik Dirga said: “OK, it’s only Monday, but this tweet by NZ Police already takes the booby prize for social media fail of the week. Tone-deaf.”
“Staggering that anyone even considered tweeting that, let alone searched for the meme, drafted the tweet and then shared with the world!” Scott Warren added.
Another commenter wrote: “I’m sorry it’s difficult for you - but I’m glad you’ve reached the point that you can make light of the worst day of many peoples lives.”
New Zealand Police later deleted the post and published a statement online thanking those who complained.
“We’re sorry this was not meant to cause offence. Telling someone their family member has died is literally the worst part of the job,” the force wrote on Twitter.
“Telling someone their loved one is not coming home is one of the hardest things cops ever have to do.
“We apologise for the recent road safety tweet. We quickly realised it was wrong and insensitive and it was immediately deleted. Thx (sic) for feedback.”
Karen Jones, the force’s Deputy Chief Executive Public Affairs added to the New Zealand Herald that the force “feel terrible about this mistake” as “we put victims at the heart of what police do”.
She said the New Zealand Police service is “extremely sorry and will learn from this”, but added that the staff member responsible would not lose their job. That person, she said, was “gutted”.
“They were trying to do the right thing and connect in a different way and quickly realised within two minutes they had completely misjudged the tone and the imagery,” Jones told the Herald.
“The damage was done.
“We got it wrong. We will learn from this. And we want to apologise to all victims of road safety.”