The Newton Police Department (NPD) has been inundated with misplaced calls and complaints in the past week. But the calls aren’t meant for Newton, Mass.
They’re meant for Newton, Iowa.
“We recently have had numerous calls placed to our Dispatch Center and messages left on our social media pertaining to an incident that took place in Newton, Iowa,” reads a Sept. 9 NPD Facebook post.
The two Newtons are separated by over 1,200 miles, yet NPD started receiving complaints after a Facebook mixup, according to Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, the department’s public information officer.
“[NPD] posted about an officer who had been killed in the line of duty [in 1954], and we started getting comments referencing and putting links to an arrest that happened in Iowa,” he said.
In Newton, Iowa, 19-year-old Tayvin Galanakis said police illegally detained him after he was driving with his high beams on, according to local CBS station KCCI Des Moines. An officer then performed multiple sobriety tests, which Galanakis passed with a 0.0 reading.
But police say Galanakis initially refused to be examined by a drug recognition expert, so he was subsequently arrested for driving while impaired, according to KCCI. He was later taken to the Newton Police Department in Iowa where he was examined by a drug impairment officer and was determined not to be impaired. He was later released.
Facebook users in the comment section of a Sept. 8 NPD Facebook post posted a link to a video by YouTuber LackLuster. The video—which has attracted nearly 400,000 views—shows 25 minutes of body camera footage involving the incident in Iowa. In a pinned comment, LackLuster mistakenly directs viewers to the Facebook page of the police department in Newton, Mass., rather than the one in Newton, Iowa.
“People were calling the station outraged at what they saw in the video,” Apotheker said. “I took one particular phone call from someone who was very irate, in which I explained to them that this was the Newton, Massachusetts Police Department, not Newton, Iowa.”
The next day, NPD clarified on Facebook that the incident in Iowa did not involve the Massachusetts city.
“We kindly remind everyone that the incident being referenced does not involve the City of Newton, Massachusetts, or our Police Department,” the Sept. 9 post reads.
Facebook comments containing the YouTube video with the misleading link are still up on the original Facebook post. Apotheker said that NPD cannot delete the comments because they are part of the public record.
Since clarifying NPD’s relation to the incident, Apotheker said he has not received additional phone calls. He said the situation can act as a learning experience on trusting social media sources.
“This is a reminder to people that when you watch anything on social media, … anybody can say anything,” Apotheker said. “They can make it look like something else when in fact it isn’t.”