A Missouri city is apologizing after posting a selfie of smiling police officers near the crime scene where a dead baby was found hours earlier.
Columbia police posted the picture on Twitter on Thursday evening of smiling officers near where investigators sought clues in the unidentified baby’s death, officials said.
The infant, who was estimated to be less than one year old, was found near a wooded area shortly before noon Thursday, according to police. Police said they didn’t know the baby’s identity.
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“The photos were by no means meant to take away from the extremely serious nature of the incident, the loss of life of a young infant or to otherwise be disrespectful,” the city said in a news release on Friday.
On Friday afternoon, the picture was still on Twitter.
“(Columbia Police Department) out keeping the streets safe while taking a quick selfie,” the tweet said. It included hashtags #CityHallSelfie and #ShowMeCoMo
The selfie was part of a nationwide social media campaign to show pride in local government, according to the news release.
The photo was also included in a video roundup post on Twitter of employee selfies from various city departments.
Check out the #CityHallSelfie Day recap video! Many thanks to all the City of Columbia staff and community members who participated! #ShowMeCoMo Thanks to @CityHallSelfie @ELGL50 for creating a day specifically for celebrating local government! pic.twitter.com/eykmWsnmYi— City of Columbia, MO (@CoMoGov) August 16, 2019
City officials say a death investigation of a baby is “one of the most difficult situations our department can face.”
“These scenes are devastating to our officers,” Assistant Chief Jeremiah Hunter said, according to the news release.
But critics say the photo shows a “lack of empathy,” according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
“I can imagine few things more insensitive than this,” Matt Akins, the founder of a police accountability group, wrote in an email to the newspaper. “The picture displays a huge lack of situational awareness and an appalling lack of empathy for the situation unfolding behind them.”
In the news release, the city’s public relations director took responsibility and publicly apologized to the police department and unidentified baby.
“I take full responsibility for this issue, I am sorry, and I have taken the appropriate coaching actions to ensure we learn from this incident so it is not repeated in the future,” Community Relations Director Steven Sapp wrote.