Sorry Cops, You Don't Get to Be Funny Online

Even if the "pug mug" is cute.

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Jul 17 2018, 7:38pm

Photo courtesy of the Cape May Police Department's Facebook

On Sunday, July 15, in a seaside city in one of the most southern parts of New Jersey, a pug named Bean escaped from her home. How she broke free is unknown, but as most dogs do on the loose, she wandered, leashless and alone, trespassing on lawns that were not her own. She traveled from backyard to backyard, presumably from cocktail party to cocktail party, like that Cheever character crossing his neighborhood swimming in pools. A vacationer, spotting the meandering pet, phoned the police department, and the local cops, in an attempt to track down the owner, then did what local cops seem to be doing more and more of: They posted something they thought was funny on the internet about it. The status went viral.

What they put up was "pug mug," a.k.a. #pugmug, a "pugshot"—or, if you'd rather not deal in puns, a farcical mugshot of the goofy-looking canine.

Sure, it's fair to think: how cute, so tongue-in-cheek, what a clever way to track down Bean's human. And how silly, too, that the "bail" was paid entirely in cookies?! Bad girl, indeed!

Yes, everyone appreciates a solid laugh. And sarcasm, irony, and good cheer are generally great things. This is especially true of life online, which can be especially toxic. But the fuzz should not have this luxury. The fuzz should not be funny on social media, because the fuzz are not (and, again, should not be) funny people. Particularly in the face of Black Lives Matter and when the public's distrust in the institution is so deservedly high. It is a serious job, and these are serious times. Not to mention, their attempts at humor, uh, often badly miss the mark.

Case in point: Take Britain's Merseyside Police, who saw no issue participating in an online exchange about soccer and encouraging a string of rape jokes.

Or the blue bloods in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who have turned mocking petty crimes—in addition to Valentine's Day tips and not-so-hilarious takes on the drunk dudes they arrest chewing on car seats—into real hobbies. (Some locals appreciate the department's attempts at levity. They are wrong.)

Or, perhaps most notably, the Wyoming, Minnesota, Police Department (yes, there's a city called "Wyoming" in Minnesota), who last April shared a series of "stoner traps" on 4/20, one of which featured an officer brandishing a net and approaching a neat pile of snack food and video games. Get it? Potheads love Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Grand Theft Auto V, and are always susceptible to them, particularly when they're neatly placed side by side in a park.

Granted, as ABC Action News notes, they did eventually include a sentence about substance-abuse resources, but as Mashable argued at the time, the sentiment is moot. The cannabis laws in the State of Minnesota aren't exactly lax, and a bunch of public servants, whose duties involve fining and arresting people who want to spark up a joint, setting up farcical cages consisting of cardboard boxes and Nacho Cheese Doritos seems a bit sinister—if not, in the very least, entirely tone-deaf. You really want to make the citizens of Minnesota chuckle? Legalize the fucking pot.

For people like me—the losers, the average, the down-trodden—humor can allow us to cope. But for the powerful, it's greatest asset—the obvious thing it achieves, above all else—is how it allows them to obfuscate. It's how, say, Reagan can simultaneously be adored and an arms dealer. Or why fast-food chains use their "savage Twitter" accounts to distract you from what it is they actually serve.

In other words: Dogs have always been funny. They don't need any help from the cops.

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