Sean Bostwick was a rookie police officer in Detroit. He was fired from the department after he admitted to writing an offensive caption on Snapchat, that many critics viewed as racist.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Sean Bostwick Wrote on Snapchat That it Was Time to Arrest ‘These Zoo Animals’
The Snapchat post that quickly went viral was a picture of 27-year-old Sean Bostwick in his police uniform. The caption read, “another night to Rangel up these zoo animals.” It was sent Saturday September 22.
The post was shared quickly on social media, drawing backlash from the community. Bostwick deleted the post, but the damage was done. The department had already received dozens of angry phone calls from community leaders and other city officials. Bostwick was suspended with pay the next day, in accordance with department policies.
Detroit police chief James Craig said he met with Bostwick on Monday, September 23. He said Bostwick took responsibility for the post and that “he didn’t mean it the way it came off.” Regardless, he was terminated from the department.
2. Bostwick Was Already On Probation Before Sending the Post
Sean Bostwick was hired by the Detroit Police Department in June of 2017, according to the police chief. But he was on probation at the time of the post, which was why the police chief could terminate him easily.
Chief Craig said that Bostwick had low test scores at the police academy, which kept him on probation. The commanding officer of the 12th precinct, where Bostwick was assigned, had reported concerns about the rookie, saying that he required additional training. Craig said he hopes another police department does not hire Bostwick in light of this incident.
3. Detroit Police Chief: The Action by Bostwick Placed a Stain on the Department
Detroit police chief James Craig addressed the issue in a public forum Monday, September 23. The event was streamed live on Facebook as well. Craig stated plainly that “This is [Bostwick’s] last day on our payroll. Tomorrow, he will no longer be a Detroit police officer. He is clear on that.”
Craig reiterated that Bostwick had expressed remorse for the post, but that that was not good enough to keep his job. Craig shared that he told Bostwick that his actions had “placed a stain” on the department and the entire organization. He explained that the police academy emphasizes “integrity and service to the community,” and that Bostwick had not adhered to those principles.
Chief Craig went on, “Being a service organization, we have a high expectation our police officers provide a high-level service. How do we expect an officer to provide high-level service when this is the way you feel? The message should be clear. A vast majority of our police officers do it right each and every time. But those who harbor these type of feelings should know, you’re not welcome here. We won’t have any tolerance for this kind of behavior.”
4. The Police Chief Said Backlash Was Widespread in Response to Bostwick’s Snapchat
During the news conference, Chief Craig said that his phone was ringing off the hook after Sean Bostwick’s Snapchat circulated on social media. He said the department received calls from black, white and Hispanic officers expressing concern. He said Detroit mayor Mike Duggan was “deeply disturbed by these comments.” The county prosecutor also reached out to the police chief, to praise him for firing Bostwick.
According to data from the Census Bureau, the population of Detroit is about 80 percent black. Chief Craig related the rhetoric of the Snapchat post to language he witnessed during the riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles. (Chief Craig was working with the LAPD during that time period).
Facebook users condemned Bostwick’s post, with many agreeing with the police chief’s assertion that police officers need to held to a higher standard of conduct.
Renetta Jones wrote, “We as Officers are and always will be held to a higher standard than others. LEAD BY EXAMPLE.”
Shay Hathor wrote, “Fact of matter your a cop everybody watching keep your personal opinions to yourself 🤦🏽♀️ simple 🤷🏽♀️”
Carol Graham said, “He needed to be fired, he showed the world how he felt about some ppl.”
Janice Meeks wrote, “The people of Detroit are not animals and you a officer feels that then you shouldn’t be a police officer in this city. Thanks for addressing this quickly Chief Craig.”
5. Sean Bostwick’s Profile Picture On Instagram Was His Police Badge
Sean Bostwick was clearly proud to be part of the Detroit police department. On his Instagram page, his profile picture was an image of his police badge.
In his highlights, Bostwick posted several images of himself posing in front of various backgrounds, as if he was modeling. The images are all from 2016 and 2017.
His other posts are all from 2015 or earlier. In May of 2015, he shared a picture of himself aiming an AR-15 at coke cans. Bostwick’s Instagram page also includes several photos from a pub crawl with friends and pictures of him wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey.