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January 29, 2017

New Jersey police attempts to squash conspiracy theory over photo of trooper

Social Media Police
012917_police_NJ New Jersey State Police/Facebook

In today's digital age, social media users are regularly bombarded with conspiracy theories and other fake news. Most can determine fairly quickly the validity of the information, but one local law enforcement agency was not taking any chances and tried to set the record straight.

On Sunday, New Jersey State Police turned to Facebook to address photos that caused enough rumors to circulate, prompting officials to offer an explanation.

The photos, which the agency described as "rather uninspiring," appear to depict a trooper onboard a bus writing down information with a pen, paper and a clipboard while passengers look on in their seats. An Instagram user shared the photos with a caption that attempted to link the scene to President Donald Trump's travel ban of citizens from predominantly Muslim nations entry into the U.S. that has sparked protests across the country, including here in Philadelphia. State police said the post caused "suspicion and confusion among commenters as to what exactly this trooper was doing" that it was brought to the department's attention.

Authorities explain:

"No, this was not an immigration checkpoint. We were not checking your "papers." Names taken were not entered into a double-secret federal database."

So what was the trooper doing? According to police:

"The truth is that this trooper was recording passengers' names, ages, towns of residence, and seat locations for, brace yourselves, a crash report. This is standard practice."

State police explained further that those individuals were not required to produce a license to the trooper, but noted that providing identification makes documenting accurate information easier.

The simple explanation solicited a strong response on Facebook, garnering more than 500 shares just hours after it was posted.