Police in Humberside, England, recently questioned a man who retweeted a transgender limerick, calling his actions a "hate incident" and telling him "we need to check your thinking," The Telegraph reported.
A "community cohesion" officer contacted Harry Miller, 53, last week after a complaint about the plant and machinery dealer's social media posts, the paper said.
Officer Mansoor Gul cited 30 potentially offensive tweets, among them a limerick Miller retweeted that questioned if transgender women are biological women, The Telegraph reported, adding that it included the line: "Your breasts are made of silicone, your vagina goes nowhere."
According to the paper, Gul told Miller he'd taken a training course on the subject and "what you need to understand is that you can have a fetus with a female brain that grows male body parts, and that's what a transgender person is."
The officer added to Miller, "We need to check your thinking," the Telegraph reported.
Miller — a husband and father of four — was alerted about the investigation by his company, which officers approached trying to make contact with him, the paper said.
The complaint added that Miller's company is an "unsafe environment" for transgender employees due to his social media comments, the Telegraph noted.
How did Miller react to being investigated?
Miller told the paper he's been inundated with messages from others who are "terrified" of speaking out on transgender issues due to possible police action against them.
"The only way to protect freedom of speech is to keep bloody speaking," he added to the Telegraph, noting that he's in talks with the woman who wrote the limerick he retweeted — who goes by the Twitter handle Restless Ellie — to go on a "limerick tour" of police headquarters.
"I'm just a hairy a***ed docker who swears, drinks, and watches football," Miller also told the paper. "But I have a wife, a mother, and daughters, and when it comes to their rights and safety and those of women everywhere, men need to speak up."
What did the investigating officer have to say?
Officer Gul confirmed to the Telegraph that he spoke with Miller for 20 minutes and said the training course he made reference to was headed up by a transgender person.
"Although none of the tweets were criminal, I said to Mr. Miller that the limerick is the kind of thing that upsets the transgender community," Gul added to the paper. "I warned him that if it escalates we will have to take further action. If someone comes forward and says: 'I'm the victim of a hate incident, and it's really upsetting me', then we have to investigate."
What did a member of Parliament have to say?
"What on earth are the police doing investigating if no crime has been committed?" Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers asked, according to the Telegraph. "Have they not got better things to do than acting as thought police?"
What did police have to say?
Scott Young, assistant chief constable of the Humberside Police, released the following statement Monday, according to Hull Live:
Following media coverage over the last few days, I want to take this opportunity to provide some clarity around why the police investigate hate incidents.
Hate incidents can cause extreme distress to victims and communities, some of whom are incredibly vulnerable members of our society. A hate incident is recorded as such if the victim perceives the actions taken to be wholly, or partially, motivated by hostility or prejudice.
This relates to any actions, whether spoken or written, around race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender.
We, and all forces, follow College of Policing guidance in relation to handling reports of hate incidents, which can often be a precursor and can escalate to more serious crimes and we, as the police, have a responsibility to prevent crime.
In this case, there were more than 30 tweets reported to us of a transphobic nature, not just a liked or retweeted limerick as some reports have suggested.
This isn't a case of the "police controlling people's thoughts." The actions taken by the individual and his comments made around transgender caused someone distress. We take all reports of hate related incidents seriously and aim to ensure they do not escalate into anything further.
The correct decision was made to record the report as a hate incident (as opposed to a hate crime in which a full investigation would have followed), and to proportionately progress by making contact with the individual concerned to discuss the actions taken on social media.
There is evidence to show hate related incidents are already under reported with people feeling they won't be taken seriously and not having confidence in the police.
I want to offer my reassurance that we will always take reports of this nature seriously, and as with this case, take proportionate action.
Louder With Crowder)