Monmouth County, NJ - A Monmouth County Police Department photo posted to its Facebook page on Thursday, Jan. 4, showed an officer using a hand sign which many people mistakenly believe is associated with white supremacy, according to NJ.com.
Matawan Police Chief Jason D. Gallo has since removed the post, and said that it was misinterpreted, according to NJ.com.
The post showed police officers standing outside in the snow, with one officer showing a hand gesture that looked like an upside down OK symbol. The caption read "Our men and woman keeping our town safe during what we hope to be the first and only blizzard of 2018. Some of our officers are specially trained “cuddlers”, who can stop by if your heat happens to go out," according to New York Post.
Chief Gallo decided to remove the post after one person commenting with a focus on the hand gesture, which they believed was racist code for "white power."
The department then posted an explanation and an apology on Facebook, which said "We tried to have some fun. Some folks don’t like that. Sorry to all the rest." This post has also since been removed.
He said that the Matawan Police Department's (MPD) Facebook page is deliberately playful, and gave as an example a post from last month, where the department posted a tongue-in-cheek warning reminding residents of some streets that they don't have diplomatic immunity from parking regulations, according to NJ.com.
"We try to keep it very cool, very lighthearted," Chief Gallo said.
The officer was actually following a viral trend known as the "circle game" where the goal is to make somebody look at your hand making the OK sign below waist level.
"The circle game, that kids play in school. Someone tried to say it was something racial. It's just ridiculous," the chief said.
"Unfortunately something nice turned into us being in the news," Chief Gallo said. "That's why a lot of departments are not on social media." He said he had received many calls from multiple media outlets about the post.
The myth that the OK sign actually meant "white power" was started by internet trolls on 4chan, an anonymous message board.
President Donald Trump frequently makes the OK sign during his speeches, and many of his supporters take photos with the OK sign to show support for the president.
In April, Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks took a photo of themselves at the White House making the OK sign. The picture was then tweeted out by a Fusion reporter who claimed that it was a white supremacist symbol.
The Independent picked up on this and ran a story in which they falsely claimed that not only was the OK sign a hate symbol, but also that the Anti Defamation League had categorized it as a hate symbol. In their article they cited a completely different two-handed sign from the ADL hate symbol database as proof.