Tuesday, the New York Police Department (NYPD) threw out into the Twitterverse a campaign to raise warm feelings about ‘New York’s Finest,’ with hashtag #myNYPD. With it, they threw themselves out like sheep amongst the wolves, or perhaps, showed themselves as wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The premise was simple, engage with the public by telling them to tweet photos they had with the NYPD, and a select few would be chosen for the NYPD Facebook page.The initial photo (directly above) published was no doubt meticulously chosen, showing three people, two of whom are police, one a woman, and all together 3 different races, and smiling. It was a triumphant media shot.
Soon after, the campaign began to look more like a failed, wild shot in the dark. Very quickly, thousands of tweets began pouring in with photos depicting the police as people had recorded them; inflicting all kinds of brutality on the public. Effectively the photos captured told the story that the NYPD had failed to demonstrate what they claimed to value.
Things really began to take off when Occupy Wall Street weighed in, and the PR nightmare has now garnered attention from all over the country and beyond, and doesn’t show signs of slowing.
Adding insult to injury were the seemingly pathetic, or possibly offensive, responses from the NYPD themselves. @NYPDnews’ response was to retweet the positive images, and neglect the rest. The NYPD’s Deputy Chief also offered up a response later stating that the NYPD is creating new ways to communicate with the community and that Twitter provides dialogue that’s beneficial.
I’m rarely at a loss for words, but… no, who am I kidding? I’ve got mountains to say, but there isn’t enough webspace in web-dom to say it. There seems to be this overwhelming notion of surprise, that the NYPD could lack the forethought that would’ve canned this idea before it left someone’s mouth. Yet, judging from the photos being shared and the stories told, I would reckon many aren’t surprised at all. Clearly the NYPD are too busy…doing any number of things. But this is not simply a shining beacon to all on how essential it is to fully think through a social media strategy.
The most surprising aspect of this, is that the #myNYPD hashtag is being touted as a branding failure, instead of as staggering, photographic evidence of malignant, systemic, savage abuse of power, and illegal violence. To further pour salt in the wound, if you spend a little time reading the tweets and between the lines, you’ll begin to see in the discourse, a divide between races.
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I’ve seen my fair share of uniformed inflicted injustice, and also been witness to pious police. But it really does leave you pondering, what on Earth were they thinking? Maybe they weren’t. Maybe, those involved don’t have the required equipment. And once again, photographs are at the heart of it all.
What do you think this whole debacle will do for photojournalism, and do you think this will begin a tide of good change?