Last night, the poisoning of four NYPD officers at a Shake Shack looked like an escalation of the hostility toward law enforcement. The city’s Police Benevolent Association assumed the worst, declaring that the four had come “under attack” and that their work environment had “deteriorated to a critical level. We cannot afford to let our guard down,” their statement continued, “even for a moment”:

The report led to plenty of social-media fulminating about protests and social unrest, as well as a public pledge from Shake Shack to cooperate in investigating the crime. Only one problem — there turned out not to be any crime. Upon further review, the NYPD’s chief of detectives announced this morning, the whole incident was most likely an accident based on sloppy cleaning work and bad timing:

Detectives determined that the employees failed to properly rinse the milkshake machines after cleaning them as usual with a bleach solution, CNN reported shortly afterward:

Three New York City Police Department officers have been released from the hospital after getting sick when they drank milkshakes from Shake Shack Monday night. …

Investigators believe a cleaning solution used to clean the milkshake machines wasn’t fully cleared and may have gotten into the officers’ drinks.

The officers bought the beverages at the restaurant chain’s lower Manhattan location around 8:30 p.m., a spokeswoman for the department said.

All three officers were transported to a local hospital where they were treated, observed and released, according to the spokeswoman.

It was just random chance, therefore, that the first customers who ordered milkshakes turned out to be cops. It could have been anyone — and who knows? There might have been more customers who did get sick but didn’t immediately link it to the milkshakes. We might still hear from others after this story percolates for a while.

This should teach us all a lesson about leaping to conclusions ahead of the facts, although that lesson applies most of all to the NYCPBA in this case. They stirred up a hornet’s nest without waiting for an investigation, which is something that police are supposed to prevent. Their work environment was bad enough before, but this can only make the distrust of police worse and dented their credibility even further. This is a bad, bad time for the PBA or any other police representatives to get caught making a false accusation and ending up with egg on their collective face.

Kudos to Chief Rodney Harrison for getting out in front of this story as quickly as he did. And maybe Shake Shack had better step up its training on cleaning protocols in the near future.