Washington State Patrol criticized after recruitment ad shows up on Breitbart News

A WSP spokesman said the ad, which originated on Facebook, follows the user and “could pop up on any website they look at.” The agency has asked that its ads not appear on the alt-right news site, but says there’s no guarantee that they won’t.

Online criticism about a Washington State Patrol recruitment ad that purportedly appeared on the alt-right site Breitbart News prompted multiple calls to the state police agency, but wrongly assumed it was trying to target right-leaning recruits, a spokesman said Tuesday.

“We’re not buying ad space on Breitbart News,” State Patrol spokesman Kyle Moore said Tuesday. “It was a Facebook ad that followed the user.”

A screen shot of a small ad featuring two state troopers and directing potential recruits to the Washington State Patrol’s recruitment page appeared Monday on Reddit, the online discussion forum. A critical post accompanying the image questioned why the state agency’s ad was running on the controversial website whose founder, Steve Bannon, has touted it as “the platform for the alt-right.”

“Washington State Patrol is running recruitment ads on Breitbart, a website that until recently had a headline section devoted entirely to `black crime,’ ” the Reddit post said. “2,600 advertisers have already blacklisted Breitbart, but not WSP. What kind of officer are WSP looking for?”

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Following the Reddit post, the State Patrol fielded various media calls about the ad, leading Moore to check with its contracted advertising firm, Bigger Picture. The ad firm explained that it’s running a Facebook-based campaign for the State Patrol in which ads track web users based on their demographics and online interests.

“We don’t do any advertising on any specific website,” Moore noted. “The ad that appeared in the Reddit post is a Facebook ad, so if a Facebook user has shown interest in law enforcement … that WSP recruitment ad could pop up on any website they look at.”

Nonetheless, the State Patrol asked its ad firm to try to limit the ad from appearing on the Breitbart site, Moore said.

“They’ve blocked Breitbart from our advertisement network, however, they indicated to me there’s not a 100 percent guarantee that it couldn’t pop up again because of the way the algorithm works,” Moore said.

With a total of about 1,100 commissioned employees, the Washington State Patrol is trying to fill about 130 vacancies — including about 89 openings for trooper positions, Moore said.

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