A pair of now-deleted tweets from the San Diego Police Department over the weekend about a DUI crash at a local Taco Bell fast food restaurant were tasteless and “not appropriate,” the department said Monday.
On Sunday, just after 11:30 a.m., two tweets appeared on SDPD’s Twitter feed along with some images from a DUI crash at a Taco Bell in San Ysidro. The tweets were laden with puns.
One read: “This was nacho average DUI crash. The DUI driver crashed into the @tacobell in San Ysirdo (sic). First lettuce taco about DUI. Not to spill the beans but in 2018 29% of traffic deaths were bcuz (sic) of DUI. Officer got on scene they thought it was a normal crash.”
The next tweet read: “As they approach the car they saw what looked like a gun in the car. Awkward, it was a gun. Now it’s nacho average crash. The driver listened to officers (sic) orders and was taken into custody without incident. He was a convicted felon who was prohibited from owning any firearms.”
The photos included in the tweets showed a Taco Bell drive-thru sign destroyed and in pieces on the ground, surrounded by shrubbery. A Big Gulp cup that was half full could be seen lying next to the sign. Another photo showed a handgun. The third image showed a white SUV presumably belonging to the suspect.
By the time NBC 7 checked SDPD’s Twitter feed again an hour later, the social media posts had been removed.
NBC 7 reached out to SDPD public information officer Lt. Shawn Takeuchi Monday about the set of tweets, how they got there and why they were pulled from the department’s social media feed.
Takeuchi said the tweets of the DUI incident were “not appropriate” and were quickly brought to his attention Sunday. He said the tweets had been up for 7 minutes when he chose to remove them.
“I do not believe the puns were appropriate given the incident we were trying to advise the public about,” Takeuchi told NBC 7. “And that is why I removed it.”
The lieutenant said he has a team of SDPD officers assigned to gather information about incidents that happen throughout San Diego. That team goes on to create social media posts as needed.
This set of tweets though, was a total miss.
Takeuchi said he plans to sit down with the team of officers this week along with a supervisor who greenlights all of SDPD’s social media posts to “discuss this specific post and why the puns and use of humor was not appropriate.”
“We should not use humor to talk about a dangerous crime such as DUI, especially because it has taken the lives of so many innocent people,” Takeuchi said. “We have a responsibility to be aware of everyone’s emotions.”
Takeuchi said his job is to set expectations and guide his team so things like this don’t happen again.
“My goal with social media is to notify the public and not cause harm,” he added.
As for the DUI crash at the San Ysidro Taco Bell, Takeuchi said only the suspect’s car was involved in the crash and no one was hurt. The suspect was arrested for DUI and also for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
SDPD's Social Media Strategy
In October 2020, NBC 7 spoke with the San Diego Police Department about its social media accounts after a tweet about a routine traffic stop caught our attention.
SDPD Sgt. Matthew Botkin told NBC 7 the department had spent a good chunk of 2020 trying to be more transparent on social media as the country rallied against social injustices.
“There’s a greater demand from the public to know why we do what we do, the reasons why we’re doing things,” Botkin told NBC 7 at the time. “And we think that’s OK; we’re a department that’s OK with that.”
Botkin said that SDPD is active on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor, TikTok and Reddit, and officers regularly engage with the public on those platforms. Botkin said the SDPD’s involvement on social media is about building trust with the community.