Oak Bay Police Chief Ray Bernoties has been suspended from Twitter just days after opening his account.
Bernoties started a personal account on September 20 under the handle @ray_oak after tweets he posted to the Oak Bay Police account (@OakBayPolice) attracted controversy.
“I’ve been contemplating this for two years,” Bernoties said in an interview with Victoria Buzz.
“I’ve had other times where I’ve tweeted something provocative. That’s happened several times over the last few years.”
Most recently, the police account drew some sharp reactions after Bernoties tweeted his dismay about some graffiti that read “Kill cops.”
“Disappointed to see any graffiti but just saw ‘Kill Cops’ in #OakBay,” he wrote on September 18.
“Kill us? No suspects but here’s my guess at a suspect profile: A privileged twerp who has no respect for public property & would be the first to call us for help if he was scared…which likely happens a lot.”
Some users said the tweet was unprofessional, and questioned the use of language at a time when policing bodies are facing heightened scrutiny and international attention regarding use of force and racial profiling.
Other users expressed support for the police, defending the tweet while also suggesting that anti-police rhetoric is comparable to hate against any protected group.
For his part, Bernoties feels that his tweet was entirely justified.
“I wouldn’t support anyone writing to kill any group of people. I don’t support any mass generalizations of any group of people.”
However, in light of the reaction to the tweet and others, the Oak Bay Police Chief said he would hand over control of the account to another member of the force.
“My own account will just be me,” Bernoties said. “Trying to let people see that we’re just humans.”
However, as of Wednesday morning his new account had been suspended. Bernoties said he has been in communication with Twitter but has not yet heard the reason for the suspension.
He added that he had suspicions about the reasons why his account has been suspended, but would not share his ideas.
In the meantime, Bernoties maintains that his use of humour on Twitter is a method for building bridges, not alienating people.
“I hope that people will follow the account and enjoy it and see that a Chief of Police, like anyone else, makes mistakes,” he said.
“They can like my opinions, they can not like my opinions. I don’t think my opinions are bad for society.”