Last week, the Granite Shoals Police Department shared a now-deleted post on Facebook warning that the supply of methamphetamine and heroin in Central-Texas had been contaminated with Ebola.
“If you have recently purchased meth or heroin in Central Texas, please take it to the local police or sheriff department so it can be screened with a special device,” the post said. “DO NOT use it until it has been properly checked for possible Ebola contamination!”
The post appeared over a “Breaking news alert” graphic and received more than 1,400 shares. Two days latter, the department made another share that has since been deleted asserting that their “first concerned citizen” had responded to the post and officers “gladly took the item for further testing.”
“Please continue to report any possibly contaminated methamphetamine or other narcotics to the Granite Shoals Police Department,” the second post stated. “Public health and safety continue to remain our #1 priority.”
The post was referring to 29-year-old Chastity Eugina Hopson. On Thursday, she was arrested and charged with possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance.
As of Monday, Hopson was still being held in Burnet County Jail on a $5,000 bond, and according to Snopes, similar Facebook posts have been circulated by police departments and citizens in at least four other states.
Officers have framed the scare as a harmless sting-tactic used to set up and catch “criminals,” but senior policy strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Matt Simpson, said the posts work against the pubic trust – especially in his state, where individuals have recently been diagnosed with the often-fatal virus.
Simpson questioned how police would respond in the future if they were faced with a real contaminated drug crisis, alluding to the fact that after trust had been eroded by such trickery, people would be less likely to take such a warning seriously.
“Are they going to run another Facebook ad that looks like this?” he asked. “Only it’s designed to help people instead of ensnare people foolish enough to follow up?”
Granite Shoals police have had a good laugh at their deceit and made an additional post on Facebook, which has also been deleted, ridiculing the worried Hopson by calling her the “winner of the Facebook post challenge.”
Director of the Texas advocacy group Public Citizen, Tom Smith, called the police tactics “pure deception,” and said, “it’s outrageous that [cops] would set traps for people instead of coming up with strategies to get them into [drug] treatment.”
Update: According to Granite Shoals Captain Gary Boshears, Hopson was arrested after the department received a call about a suspicious person trying to break into a car on Prairie Creek Road.
Police said they found the her wandering the street with a small amount of meth on her and that she asked them to test it for Ebola.