ST. LOUIS -- The chief of the St. Louis County Police Department apologized Thursday for a post on a precinct's Facebook page that referenced the police shooting death of a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was carrying a pellet gun.
The post, titled "Kids Will Be Kids?" was published Thursday morning on the City of Fenton's Facebook page and removed hours later. It did not mention Tamir Rice by name, but implied that the boy's actions played a role in his death.
In part, the post urged to talk with their children about the Nov. 22 shooting and inspect any pellet guns they may own to make sure an orange tip was in place.
"Your children should have rules for 'toy' guns that mirror the rules of a real weapon," the post read.
"Warn them that these 'toys' do look like real guns and could result in the police getting called on them. The police may get called to respond to 'a child with a gun,' 'maybe a toy gun,' it is important to know how officers are trained to respond," the message said, adding advice for children to follow if they are confronted by police.
Reaction on social media was swift, with people calling the post "insanity" and "tone deaf and dangerous."
Thursday afternoon, Chief Jon Belmar issued a statement acknowledging the post was "a misguided communication strategy and was offensive to many people."
Belmar went on to call the message "insensitive to Tamir's family and the sorrow they are currently experiencing."
"The post conveyed the message that my officers respond to calls involving a child with a gun with indiscretion and little regard for life," Belmar said. "I want to emphasize that my officers respond to calls with discernment, and have the highest regard for human life. We train officers to take all facts and circumstances into consideration when making decisions about using force."
Belmar did not identify the officer who posted the message but vowed the department's social media policy would be changed. A reporter for the Guardian spoke with Fenton officer Aaron Dilks, who said, ""Yeah, it was me."
There was no word on whether the officer would be reprimanded.