October 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

Laura Berman

Detroit chief caught in social media trap

The police chief's career might have survived an affair, divorce and other disturbances in the field. What brought down Ralph Godbee was that fatal, uber-modern combination of sex and social media.

Think of it as two parts bad choices, one part Twitter.

By the end of Tuesday, Godbee was facing a profusion of tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram photos that exploded the notion of a private life for a public man.

His estranged wife, Yolanda Godbee, tweeted plaintive expressions of loss, disappointment and hurt, including a message to his latest presumed girlfriend.

Angelica Robinson, an officer in internal affairs, announced through her lawyer that she had been having an affair with the chief and had become depressed and distraught.

Her tweet-to-remember showed her with her Glock in her mouth.

Meanwhile, a third woman tweeted an Instagram photo of herself on a San Diego balcony. As it happens, Godbee was in San Diego at a conference until today.

Everyone involved, however tangentially, was tweeting about cheating.

Even Warren Evans, Godbee's predecessor as chief, weighed in on Facebook, making the case that his transgressions had been mild (he was single) when compared to Godbee (divorce pending.)

In case you'd forgotten that Evans and Godbee had each dated the same police officer two years ago, Evans provided a timely social media reminder that he had been penalized permanently — Bing fired him.

(At the time, Bing was also said to be upset by Evans' participation in a TV reality pilot.)

Life will always be unfair, but social media can now dramatically level the playing field. An Instagram photo from a balcony disrupts deniability. The shock of a Glock is proof that an affair is no laughing matter.

Looking back, I wonder how Shakespeare might have deployed Twitter and Facebook in his plots: Juliet might have tweeted to Romeo before drinking poison, and changed the course of their romance.

Now Ralph Godbee, suspended on Tuesday for 30 days, is deemed likely to resign, if not today, then soon.

In less technologically sophisticated times, the wages of infidelity played out slowly, with letters tied in satin ribbons and delivered by hand.

In Godbee's case, the cast of characters involved in his indiscretions aired and shared with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of followers, before landing in the mainstream media.

The top cop's misfortunes might be comic if they weren't so tragic. With bad judgment and a few computer clicks, he's lost his wife, his job and his reputation.

Two years ago, Dave Bing overlooked reports of Godbee's first internal affair and promoted him tochief. The mayor seemed to lay down arule that the chief should keep his private life separate from the police force.

In a city of more than 700,000 non-cops, it shouldn't have been a hard bargain for Godbee to keep.


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Laura Berman’s column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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