NYPD’s #myNYPD Twitter Callout Backfires Horribly

In this May 1, 2012 file photo, a police lieutenant swung his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York.
In this May 1, 2012 file photo, a police lieutenant swung his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York. –Mary Altaffer/AP file

The New York Police Department took to Twitter Tuesday to solicit photos of police officers in the community, but the move fell flat with people instead posting images of alleged police brutality.

Here’s what happened:

The NYPD asked people via their @NYPDNews account to share pictures of themselves with members of the police department using #myNYPD.

The NYPD did receive and retweet some nice photos of officers in the community. Here are some of those photos:

But as #myNYPD picked up steam, the campaign backfired and Twitter was soon buzzing with images of aggressive police behavior with #myNYPD. Images like these:


More images can be seen here, here, and here.

Several news sites have highlighted this as an example of what happens when social media goes wrong and as a valuable lesson on the ways of the Internet. But, this wasn’t just a Twitter fail and public relations nightmare. What the #myNYPD fiasco shows goes beyond the snarkiness that often occurs on social media. It highlights the deep, real issues that some communities have with the NYPD’s policing tactics such as stop and frisk or the incidents of unarmed minority men being shot and killed by police.

Soraya Nadia McDonald of The Washington Post sums it up nicely:

It was another instance of dark levity for Twitter, a brief gotcha moment for users who have not forgotten about the police department's transgressions that have cultivated a deep sense of mistrust among many minorities: the shootings of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell, stop-and-frisk, the treatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters, the program that was, until recently, spying on Muslim students and mosques, or the two cops who were fired after being tried for raping a woman in her apartment.

While this could be seen as a sort of online poetic justice, the NYPD appears to be taking the #myNYPD blow up in stride. According to The Wall Street Journal, the NYPD released a statement Tuesday, saying the campaign was an effort at “open dialogue.’’

"The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community," [Deputy Chief Kim Royster ]said. "Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city."


The head of the NYPD, Commissioner William Bratton, said today that he was caught off guard by the harsh response to #myNYPD, but has no plans to quit social media, the Associated Press reports.

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