Innocent joke or out of line? Tenn. police department takes heat for AT-4 traffic post

Loretto Police Department

Innocent joke, or way out of line?

Thousands of people across the country are reacting to a Facebook post made by the Loretto Police Department to get drivers to stop speeding.

It shows an officer pointing an AT-4 missile launcher at traffic on the city’s main drag, called Military Street, as a friendly reminder to get drivers to adhere to the 45 mph speed limit.

But the image has been interpreted to mean so much more, prompting a series of comments accusing the department of wanting to kill its citizens.

Police Chief Bobby Joe Killen can’t believe the response.

“I’ve spent the last 30 years protecting this community and in those 30 years I would have put my life on the line for any of them, somebody referencing that I’d kill somebody, it upsets me,” said Chief Killen.

The department has a reputation for making funny, tongue in cheek posts to relay messages to the community.

Before this, Chief Killen said it has helped foster friendly relationships between officers and citizens.

But the backlash from the controversial AT-4 post caused the department to issue an apology.

What’s more, the weapon the officer is holding, is inoperable.

“He borrowed it from a friend that actually bought it at a gun store, it’s inert, it doesn’t work, it’s a piece that you hang on the wall to talk about and people have really talked about this piece here,” Chief Killen explained.

Killen suspects the people upset don’t live anywhere near Loretto and don’t know the department.

Folks in Loretto that spoke with FOX 17 News laughed at the post.

“I think the joke went way over their heads, they should really just calm down and see it for what it is,” said Drake Perry, of Loretto.

“It was obviously just a joke, they’re obviously not going to shoot anyone with that, they’re not crazy,” adds Gustavo Miranda.

Chief Killen said he thought about taking the post down, but decided that since it’s already out there, that wouldn’t do any good at this point.

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