St. Louis Police Chief catching heat over tweet touting crime fighting app

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - The St. Louis Police Chief is catching heat over a tweet. It was meant to brag about the city's new crime fighting app, instead it's launched a debate over policing priorities. Now the ACLU is getting involved.

Chief Sam Dotson sent this tweet around 6pm Thursday. Since then, its been retweeted over 71 times.

The backlash is from suggesting the app lead to arresting a person for "Panhandling."

Government watchdogs tweeted their disappointment, saying police should be attacking the city's violent crime, not the city's homeless. Arch City Defenders writing, "What a terrible use of police resources. Locking a human in a cage wont solve the problem of poverty."

Dotson tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that that the man he tweeted about had been panhandling.  But, there's more to it. According to the police report the app tip brought officers to a busy Mobil gas Station on the corner of Kingshighway and Delmar. Employees stated the suspect had been in the parking lot soliciting customers, was asked to leave several times, but refused. Police arrested the 28-year-old and issued a summons for trespassing.

"It can really be dangerous because if you're getting out of your car and people are walking up to you, you don't know what they're going to do. It's getting so bad out here these days." said Shirley Patterson.

The ACLU says Dotson should have chosen his words more carefully...

"Now what you have is, you have the public believing oh, someone who's panhandling is committing a crime, that's not the message we want." said Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Jeffrey Mittman.

Dotson also tells our partners at the Post Dispatch, "It just shows you can't put context in 140 characters."

The ACLU says they are going to look into this further. If needed they will work with the police department to make sure it's using resources in the right ways.