NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton admits he was caught off guard after a Twitter request by the NYPD backfired in a very public way, but said Wednesday he has no plans to abandon social media.
The NYPD asked Twitter users Tuesday to share pictures of them posing with police officers using the hashtag #MyNYPD.
The effort was put forward as Bratton tries to soften the department’s image following years of criticism over the stop-and-frisk policy, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
Police even offered an example of a picture showing a man with his arms around two police officers and said it might feature pictures sent in on its Facebook page.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014
At first, similar pictures began popping up.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014
But the responses soon turned ugly when some users started using the hashtag to send in photos of alleged police brutality.
Occupy Wall Street tweeted numerous photos, including one of cops battling protesters with the caption “changing hearts and minds one baton at a time.”
— Occupy Wall Street (@OccupyWallStNYC) April 22, 2014
Other photos included a cop yanking a woman’s hair, an officer with his knee on a shirtless man’s neck and an elderly man bloodied after being arrested.
Another person posted a picture of what appears to be a cop sleeping on the subway.
“An officer from Precinct 114 once ticketed me for doing this exact thing on the N train,” @danstuckey tweeted.
— Daniel Stuckey (@danstuckey) April 22, 2014
Many also tweeted comments like, “Wondering if the @nypdnews social media strategist still has their job today.”
On Wednesday, Bratton commented on the negative posts, saying most of the pictures were “old news.”
“They’ve been out there for a long time,” Bratton said. “Often times our activities are lawful, but they look awful and that’s the reality. And as I looked at some of those photos, those were officers engaged lawfully.”
The police commissioner said the campaign to have the public tweet positive pictures with officers will continue and has no intention of asking Twitter to remove any of the photos he has seen so far, CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported.
“What we’re trying to do is be more open, more transparent and we’re going to engage in everything that will allow us to do that,” Bratton said.
— Al Jones (@aljoneswins) April 23, 2014
There were some people who criticized the backlash on Twitter.
“People are so lame, there’s a lot of good cops out there as well,” tweeted @annuhk.
The #MyNYPD hashtag quickly became a top trending topic on Twitter and spawned similar hashtags for other cities, including #MyLAPD with users posting similar pictures of Los Angeles police.
Experts questioned Wednesday how the NYPD didn’t anticipate the potential public relations debacle. One said other large organizations have seen hashtags become “bashtags.”
Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of law and police studies, said the department is smart in trying to reach people online.
In the end, he said action, not tweets, will speak louder.
“In routine interactions the police have to do a better job of making people feel like they’re not being hard done by. So he’s working to do that,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a bump in the road.”
“If anything I kinda welcome the extra attention. We really kinda broke the numbers yesterday,” the police commissioner said.
Police spokeswoman Kim Royster said Tuesday the NYPD “is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community” and said Twitter “provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”
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