“Enjoy trying to sleep tonight, wondering if tonight’s the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges."
That’s the warning a newly-minted sheriff in Lake County, Florida had for local heroin dealers, relayed via a video of him flanked by four officers in bulletproof vests and balaclavas.
“To the dealers that are pushing this poison, I have a message for you: we’re coming for you,” Sheriff Peyton Grinnell said sternly into the camera. “As a matter of fact, our undercover agents have already bought heroin from many of you. We’re just waiting for the arrest warrants to be finalized.”
The video, posted last Friday, has racked up more than 600,000 views on Facebook and re-ignited a debate about small-town sheriffs’ social media presence. Commenters have criticized the video’s portrayal of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office as a militarized unit—more than one commenter compared the masked officers to ISIS fighters. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to request for comment.
It’s also a strange deviation from the office’s usual social media presence. Only 15 videos have been posted to the Lake County Sheriff Office’s Facebook page since 2015, most of which have a far more lighthearted tone, like this video, uploaded without commentary, of people dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle."
The shift could be explained by the fact that Grinnell only recently became Sheriff; according to his LinkedIn page, he was promoted in January.
This isn’t the first time a Florida sheriff’s office turned to social media to send a tough-on-crime message. Last November, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office received a wave of criticism after posting a picture of a man crying while being arrested—captioned “SAD CRIMINAL OF THE DAY”—on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“We definitely add a little fun to our social media and to our Twitter feed,” Pasco Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Melanie Snow told the Tampa Bay Times in November.
Last week, the office posted a video called “Think Before You Post,” intended to warn teenagers about the dangers of posting pictures of themselves partying online (not much is said about the actual dangers of partying itself). The video features a group of kids pretending to drink out of red Solo cups, posing for selfies next to a urinal.
The strangest video released in recent memory by a Florida sheriff’s office is, hands down, this 2015 gem of Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan sharing his thoughts on race, racism, and so-called “thug culture.”
Morgan’s video begins with a meditation on what it means to be American: “I am fourth-generation Welsh. I or my family do not pretend, nor do we say we are Welsh-American. We are Americans. I was not born in Wales, and the blacks that currently reside in the United States of America are not from Africa,” he said.
“If we’re such a racist nation, why do we currently have an African-American president?” Morgan asked later in the video. “We have, unfortunately, in the black community, embraced ‘thug culture,’” Morgan added.
Morgan was re-elected to his position in November 2016.