Pawhuska police complain of social media misinformation

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska Police Chief Lorrie Hennesy told the City Council in remarks Feb. 14 that it is necessary to give incentives to police officer candidates to be competitive in hiring. Hennesy said the department has done nothing wrong in regard to take-home vehicles provided to officers.

Hennesy was not listed on the Council’s meeting agenda, but she requested an opportunity to comment, in part to address adverse social media posts regarding officer use of take-home vehicles. Hennesy said she has talked with the District Attorney’s office regarding the use of vehicles, and is confident the Pawhuska department is not violating any legal rules.

“We have to give incentives in order to have officers in our police department,” Hennesy told the Council. She added that the current hiring climate is particularly difficult because of widespread negative perceptions of law enforcement officers.

Hennesy’s complaint about social medial attacks on the Pawhuska Police Department marks the second time in recent months that a city official has cited online misinformation as a concern. Interim City Manager Laura Teague recently discussed with the Council her own frustration with what appeared to her to be malicious online activity.

“We feel like we are being targeted a lot,” Hennesy said regarding social media activity.

Hennesy also used her remarks to compliment Assistant City Manager Tonya Hutson for helping to replace outdated protective vests for police officers.

“Nobody’s ever thanked Tonya for that,” Hennesy said. “We appreciate it greatly.”

Hennesy and other members of the Police Department staff also offered the Council comments regarding the value of continuing to have the department’s phone calls answered and its officer response instructions issued by its own dispatchers, rather than having the work done by county dispatchers. Councilors were told that Pawhuska city dispatchers have particular familiarity with local residents who need assistance, and are better prepared to explain situations to officers in the field.

“If you would like to spend the day with one of us, please do,” Hennesy said to city councilors. “My dispatchers and my officers know the community.”

Hennesy told city councilors that the Police Department frequently provides rides out of Pawhuska to persons who have been released from the county jail but have no way to get back to their homes. She explained that the Pawhuska Police Department tries to avoid situations where persons released from jail, but without transportation, are stranded in Pawhuska for extended periods.