Police chief says community's social media misinformation hampers investigations

An afternoon collision halted traffic along a busy roadway in Inkster and tempers flare.

Witnesses say the driver of the car — which was hit — pulled out a gun and fires shots at the two women, who were in the SUV, which hit him.  The shooter hopped away on one leg as students from a nearby school were dismissed.

The Inkster police chief says misinformation on social media made the investigation tougher.

"When people think they have some good information, and they put it on social media, and it’s bad information," said Chief Bill Ratliff. "We were getting multiple reports of people shot at the location. We were hearing mass shooting, we were hearing all kinds of bad information not only to 911, but to social media.

"Other people were showing up to the scene to see what happened; to see if they’re loved ones were involved. It just creates a hostile environment for law enforcement to work in."

The online reference library — DataReportal — says more than 70 percent of Americans use social media.  However, a survey by Statista, shows nearly 40 percent of people have accidentally spread misinformation on social media.

In February, we saw the toll misinformation from social media took on the deadly mass shooting at Michigan State University.

It caused more confusion during an already frightful time. MSU police spoke at length about the added trouble the deceptive posts caused.

Since then, the department has become more proactive. A month after the mass shooting, MSU police posted a video about a man with a knife on campus.

"Hi everybody my name is Chris Rozman. I’m the chief of police at Michigan State University."

In the 1:38 clip, the chief explained the situation and addressed the potential for causing more trauma on campus, but the move to keep people informed.

Inkster Police Chief Bill Ratliff has advice for people who come across questionable info online.

"So the most important thing when something like that happens, don’t rush to the scene. Stay at home. Verify your facts before you repost stuff, verify your facts before you tell people what you think is happening," he said.

A valuable reminder that could spell the difference between confusion and clarity. 

Inkster Police Chief Bill Ratliff.

Inkster Police Chief Bill Ratliff.