A New York Police Department campaign to burnish its image
via social media instead produced a flood of pictures of
apparent police brutality and tweets critical of the force
being shared at a rate of thousands an hour.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he would continue and
expand the NYPD Twitter campaign a day after it backfired,
triggering an outpouring of negative images including police
violence at New York's Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, an
NYPD officer pointing a gun at a dog, and an officer asleep
in a subway car.
"The reality of policing is that oftentimes our actions are
lawful, but they look awful," Bratton told a news briefing at
New York City Hall.
"Most of those photos that I looked at are old news," said
Bratton, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to take over from
Ray Kelly, who served for 12 years under de Blasio's
predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.
The department on Tuesday afternoon invited Twitter users to
submit pictures of themselves with NYPD cops using the
hashtag #mynypd, promising some would be posted to the NYPD
Within hours, a torrent of images depicting police brutality,
violence and controversial tactics, most of which occurred
under Kelly, deluged Twitter.
Some of the images and tweets referred to the fatal,
controversial New York police shootings of Sean Bell in 2006
and Amadou Diallo in 1999, each of which led to criminal
trials in which all the officers were acquitted.
By Wednesday morning, the #mynypd hashtag had been tweeted
more than 94,000 times.
By afternoon, the viral campaign had spread across the
country, sparking similarly critical images and tweets around
hashtags aimed at police departments in Miami, Detroit, Los
Angeles, Oakland and Chicago.
Saying he would continue and expand the Twitter campaign,
Bratton noted that earlier this month, someone had captured a
picture of a New York transit police officer guiding a blind
woman to the subway, and posted it online.
"Within about three hours, almost half a million people had
basically seen that photo. What is wrong with that? We're
going to continue that. Send us your photos, good or bad."
Other high-profile Twitter campaigns that went awry include
one launched by Comedy Central's satirical Colbert Report
that in March took down a tweet that many considered racist
after it poked fun at a football team owner and sparked a
Last fall, JPMorgan Chase & Co, the only large financial
institution to have posted a profit during the 2007-2008
financial crisis, cancelled plans for a senior executive to
answer Twitter questions after a flood of critical #AskJPM