It’s a pretty standard idea in theory. Law enforcement offices make public service announcements all the time about particular issues affecting their community, and officers saying they want the public’s help to get tough on heroin dealers isn’t exactly controversial.
But something about the Lake County Sheriff’s Office video public service announcement, posted on the Florida law enforcement agency’s Facebook on Friday, struck some nerves.
The video shows Sheriff Peyton Grinnell speaking at a podium, flanked by four still officers who are standing silently and wearing face masks and protective vests. The camera zooms in and out repeatedly as Grinnell talks about how they plan to target heroin dealers.
“I am asking our residents to please call and let us know if you know of a location where this poison is being pushed out to our streets. You can remain anonymous,” Grinnell says, staring intensely into the camera. “To the dealers who are pushing this poison, I have a message for you: We’re coming for you. As a matter of fact, our undercover agents have already bought heroin from many of you.”
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“So, to the dealers, I say, enjoy looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if today is the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight, wondering if tonight is the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges,” he continued. “We are coming for you.”
The video ends with Grinnell instructing the dealers to “run” before all five people exit the frame of the shot.
The video has garnered more than 600,000 views, which is more than twice the population of Lake County, Florida. The county had 101 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2016, or around 300 deaths, according to County Health Rankings.
Reactions to it were mixed but highly polarized. Several people compared it to a terrorist video.
“America’s Taliban,” one Facebook user wrote.
“Christian ISIS,” wrote another.
“Looks like an ISIS video,” said a third.
Others said the issue of heroin is serious and therefore deserves the intense treatment, and they were glad to see the sheriff cared so much about getting drugs off the streets.
“Those of you who don’t understand are sheltered and don’t get that this is the way police have to be against cowards that will shoot their own family in a disagreement,” a man said. “Wish we had this sheriff here in PA. We need more like him.”
And still others were in the middle of the road, cautioning that the behavior in the PSA was an indicator that the war on drugs had returned.
“It’s a heath issue. The war on drugs is a failure and has turned the U.S. into a police state,” a woman wrote. “Treat it as a heath issue and watch the number of overdoses decline. Except the private prisons won’t make any money so we can’t do that.”