Ann Arbor, MI – Ann Arbor police have removed the names they planned to use for free “Police Pop-Up Events” in August after backlash on social media.
“Mark your calendar and spend an hour with the Ann Arbor Police Department at any of our free pop-up events,” the flyer began.
The first event, “Frozen Treats with ‘The Heat’” on Aug. 4, promised free popsicles and fun for all ages in a farm-themed park.
But the next three events listed on the flyer set many people off.
“Catch me if you can!” on Aug. 11 was the title of a baseball game between police and neighborhood kids.
“Bring your baseball glove and play catch with the cops” at Allmendinger Park, the flyer advertised.
“Take the cops to court” on Aug. 18 invited kids to “shoot hoops and play basketball with some of your favorite officers” at Southeast Area Park .
Finally, “’Get Booked’ before school” was the title of an Aug. 26 pop-up event that invited children to bring a picnic blanket and listen to stories read by officers at Burns Park.
The flyer said the police officers would be giving out free school supplies to children in attendance.
The phrases were crafted to attract attendees to the police department’s event, however, they felt flat with many in the community and inspired furious social media posts.
“This is beyond racist and horrific. It is so bad it feels like it’s intentionally mocking Black people,” one person wrote when Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) shared the flyer on its Facebook page.
It appeared that few people found humor in the catchy phrases on the flyer.
“’Take a cop to court?’’ another person wrote. “As in, the hundreds of cops currently in court for killing/injuring/ruining the lives of our citizens of color? Wow, that’s so….not funny at all.”
“Specifically, ‘catch me if you can’ makes me sick to my stomach. The cops play this “game” regularly and people die,” another person commented.
So many people complained that the police department announced it was changing the names of the events.
“We understand that the names of some of the events are distracting from the intent of the program, so we’ve removed the terms of these events and are instead calling them “Pop-Up Events,” Ann Arbor Police Sergeant Mark Pulford said in a statement published to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Facebook page. “We have been, and always will be, committed to connecting positively with our youth, and that is our intention here.”
The Police Tribune reached out to the Ann Arbor Police Department (AAPD) for further explanation about what had happened.
“AAPD’s Community Engagement Unit created a series of summer events with the intent of building relationships with the youth population within the city. Information about the events was pushed out through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Facebook page (among other avenues),” Ann Arbor Police Lieutenant Mike Scherba told The Police Tribune in an email.
“A number of people who saw the event posting on the AAPS FB page were offended by the names selected for the events,” Lt. Scherba wrote. “It was certainly not the intent of AAPD to offend anyone and upon learning of the issue, the event names were promptly removed.”
He also reiterated the police department’s commitment to connecting with youth in the community.