MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Bemidji Police Department generally uses its Facebook page to alert the public to safety concerns, seek help in identifying persons of interest and connect lost pets to their owners.

But Chief Mike Mastin says the department’s use of the social media platform may soon change, as officials have noticed an increase in racist and derogatory messages in the comments.

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“While the 1st Amendment protects the freedom of speech, these comments serve no purpose but to perpetuate hate and racism,” Mastin wrote this week on the department’s Facebook page.

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The chief said that due to the department’s small size, it doesn’t have the staff to monitor the comments on the Facebook page around the clock. As such, the department will be evaluating how it uses the platform going forward.

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“Please be patient and respectful as we navigate the complex laws surrounding social media, government entities and the freedom for speech,” Mastin wrote.