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Dallas police chief proudly announces firings on Twitter

David Brown likes to use social media to post when he has terminated an employee. He even offers reasons. Unreasonable?

Information or humiliation?
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

In distant times, when TV screens were no bigger than human heads, discretion was valued.

Feelings mattered and decorum was observed.

But in our world of anything goes -- and hopefully goes public -- old-fashioned concepts bite the dust like dying flies.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, therefore, that Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown likes to announce when he's fired someone on his Twitter account.

To celebrate the new year, for example, Brown chose December 30 as the moment to socially announce the firing of five police officers and a 911 call operator.

As Vocativ reports, each is given the tombstone of their own tweet. For example: "I have terminated 911 Call Taker Moises Limon today for driving while under the influence and not reporting his arrest to his supervisor."

You'd have thought that word of an arrest would have got around quickly, but perhaps not.

Or how about: "I have terminated SC Frank Della for public intoxication, damaging a person's property, and making offensive contact with a person."

Defenders will, I feel confident, believe that this is merely a police chief offering public information. Thin is the blue line, though, between that and public humiliation.

Indeed, Brown doesn't just confine himself solitarily to Twitter. He also posts longer self-justifications to Facebook.

To these, especially, there is a charming byproduct. We learn in copious detail about the misbehavior of police officers.

A sample:

Senior Corporal Della while off-duty attended a concert during which time he consumed alcoholic beverages. After the concert, he picked up a parking barricade in the parking lot and threw it, striking a parked vehicle. The owners of the vehicle, a male and female, observed the incident as they approached their vehicle. A verbal argument ensued between Senior Corporal Della and the owners, at which time Senior Corporal Della grabbed the female by the shoulders. Senior Corporal Della produced his badge and identified himself as a police officer to the couple and then walked away while the female called 911.

Lt. Max Geron, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department told Vocativ: "I'm unaware of anyone else doing this."

He meant posting long, socially-networked descriptions of firings, rather than getting drunk and behaving badly, despite being a police officer.

The aim is, as one suspected, today's most moral noun: transparency. The chief, though, admitted in another Twitter post on New Year's Eve: "The reaction has (been) mostly positive but it gets dicey on some issues."

With every Twitter post, you're rolling the dice. Indeed, even though the chief makes clear that each fired officer can appeal his decisions, he doesn't use the word "allegedly" at all.

He does also seem to use Twitter to expunge frustrations in a slightly dicey manner. On January 4, he offered: @sgoldstein I don't care for being called an a**hole and c***sucker though by the Belo folks."

This apparently refers to a, um, conversation with Dallas Morning News reporter Tanya Eiserer.

The thing about Twitter and the like is that they suck you into daily use. They make you believe that this is a normal, habitual form of communication and self-expression.

It seems that, in the case of Chief Brown, what happens in the Dallas police department happens on Twitter. Which might, at some point, turn out to be a difficult precedent.

Chief Brown. tc45646/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET