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Controversial tweet causes community to question OPD's message

A tweet from the Oxford Police Department (OPD) has caused some to interpret that OPD police officials do not believe sexual assault survivors who report incidents to the department.

"There's actually three sides to every story...his, hers and the police report," OPD tweeted on Saturday, Nov. 24.

After the tweet was posted, Miami University community members began to comment. Some accused the police of being insensitive and asserted that OPD does not believe sexual assault survivors. Still, others stood by the department's words.

"Your social media manager is awesome," a Hudson, Ohio resident, Cynde Hoffman, replied to the tweet.

Police Chief John Jones said OPD's social media team saw the phrase online and did not consider it a reference to sexual assault.

"A situation that police find themselves in often is two disputing parties and somewhere in the middle lies the truth," Jones said.

However, this sentiment was not widely understood by the community at large.

"That was really disappointing and frankly very demeaning to anyone who has been a sexual assault victim or really anyone who is trying to take a crime to the police," Sarah Siegel, a senior quantitative economics and sustainability major, said.

Although some people called for OPD to take down the tweet, Jones said it is a public record and deleting it would make it look like they have something to hide.

On Nov. 25, OPD posted a reply saying that people misunderstood the intentions of the tweet.

"We weren't referring to any type of specific call," OPD tweeted. "'He said/she said' or 'he said/he said' is part of so many calls we take, whether it be an accusation of theft, property damage, a neighbor dispute, a custody argument, a fight."

Siegel expressed her concerns to Jones when he came to speak at the Associated Student Government (ASG) meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4. She told Jones how she has friends who are scared to report sexual assaults and feel they cannot trust the police because of this tweet.

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Siegel said it does not matter what the OPD intended.

"Intentions [are] different from impact, and even if you don't intend for something to be taken a certain way - if the impact is that it's taken a certain way, that's still the effect that the tweet has, and thus they need to recognize that and apologize," Siegel said.

Jones heard from Siegel and other ASG senators and then spoke with OPD's social media team, which is led by Lt. Lara Fening. Eventually, they released a statement on Monday, Dec. 10, in response to the senators' concerns.

"One of our recent tweets caused some misunderstanding with some of our followers," OPD wrote. "We acknowledge that this tweet was interpreted differently than it was intended, and it was certainly not our intention to offend anyone....We strive to treat sexual assault survivors and all victims of crime with compassion and dignity while professionally investigating their report."

Despite the apology, some students are not satisfied.

"I think they handled it really poorly," Kenny Halt, a senior political science and urban and regional planning major, said. "They waited two weeks to address it and put out a statement where they didn't even really apologize; they were just like 'I'm sorry that you misunderstood what we meant.'"

Jones still believes the OPD handles sexual assault cases well, despite the backlash and the student concerns he was presented with by ASG.

"We may have made a mistake in our messaging, but our commitment to solving those crimes and to working with the people affected by those crimes remains strong," Jones said.