NYPD's Photo Campaign Backfires, Exposes Aggressive Police Force
April 23, 2014

NYPD’s Photo Campaign Backfires, Exposes Aggressive Police Force

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The New York Police Department has an image problem, and while many big city police departments face similar issues, in the case of the Big Apple social media is to blame. This week the NYPD launched a Twitter and Facebook campaign that encouraged average New Yorkers to share a photo with a member of the department.

On Tuesday via the NYPD Twitter account (#myNPYD) a call was made for photos. The tweet noted: “Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook. pic.twitter.com/mE2c3oSmm6.”

Perhaps the people behind the campaign expected to see smiling New Yorkers and tourists delighted by the police presence on the streets of New York. Instead of being a public relations coup this campaign imploded and turned into a true PR disaster as photos showed up of officers committing what could only be described as “excessive force” and even “police brutality.”

It started out innocently enough, as it featured two smiling officers and a happy New Yorker. What followed was probably not what anyone had in mind and certainly not what they expected.

Gigaom reported that, “One of the most retweeted responses was from the Occupy Wall Street account, which said that the photo depicted how the NYPD ‘engages with its community members, changing hearts and minds one baton at a time.’”

The NYPD photo campaign then took on a life of its own, with photos of the police engaging people going viral. Dan Gillmor of the Daily Intelligencer tweeted, “Meltdown of #MyNYPD is a classic case of not understanding how social media operates.”

Even New York Magazine, which typically highlights the very best that the Big Apple offers and is a resounding cheerleader for all things New York, noted, “The #MyNYPD Hashtag Is Not Going So Well for the Police.”

The magazine reported, “The official @NYPDnews Twitter account made an attempt at social media outreach today only to get promptly torn to shreds by users resisting the PR push. Hijacked hashtags are a common Twitter phenomenon, but tend to be played more for giggles (‘trolling,’ some call it) than to make a coherent political statement. With #myNYPD, however, a harsh pattern emerged right away. It's safe to say none of these will be making the Facebook page.”

In fairness to the NYPD many of the photos that did go viral could have been taken out of context. While these show officers subduing suspects the photos only tell part of the story.

“While it's hard to say if the force used in many of the pictures tagged with the #myNYPD hashtag is justified or not, the overall sentiment is clearly one in defense of citizens against an overly brutal police presence,” The Verge reported. “Either way, there's little doubt that the anti-police co-opting of the #myNYPD hashtag is picking up mainstream attention — it’s one of the top trending items on Twitter right now. It's a lesson in social media that the department is likely not to forget anytime soon.”

The responses were also not all bad. For that reason the NYPD won’t shy away from social media in the future either.

“People are free to do what they want,” NYPD spokesman Stephen Davis told the New York Post. "But we are doing it to get our messages out to the communities . . . We will not be deterred from our social media objective.”