By: Justin Gamble
In April of 2014 The New York Police Department sent out a tweet that asked New Yorkers to post pictures of themselves with members of the NYPD. The department tweeted, “Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us and tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook.” While NYPD expected to receive smiling pictures of citizens with NYPD members, this plan inevitably backfired when instead they began to receive unflattering pictures of officers making arrests, fighting with citizens, and even some photos of officers with weapons drawn. The timing of this tweet wasn’t exactly ideal for the NYPD, mostly because it was around the time that Occupy Wall Street was taking place. As soon as members of the Occupy Wall Street caught on to the hashtag, the Twitter world was flooded with pictures of police brutality accompanied by negative and sarcastic comments.
Shortly after #myNYPD was brought to light other major cities began to see similar hashtags. #myAPD (Atlanta) and #myCPD (Chicago) were other hashtags that saw similar negativity. One tweet coming out of Chicago read, “#myCPD extending his fist out to the community.” accompanied by a photo of a Chicago police officer who looked like he was about to punch a person standing with a camera.
The virality of the campaign is undeniable; it definitely took the Twitter universe by storm. #myNYPD received 43,000 mentions. Of those mentions only 5% were actually positive tweets supporting the NYPD, 15% were negative tweets, and the remainder were recorded as neutral. Tweets not only came from New York, but all over the United States and there were even tweets from Canada and Ecuador recorded. Men tend to use social media less frequently then women do, but surprisingly 64% #myNYPD tweets were from males.
The president of an integrated communications and public affairs firm called Ervin-Hill Strategy, Dan Hill, noted that Twitter is a great place to help gain awareness for a brand, but NYPD is not a brand so the campaign did not go over well. The NYPD’s Twitter account can be put to better use like gaining information from the general public about suspects in cases, “That’s what they really need to focus on and do it as well as they can.” Hill explained in an interview with IBTimes.
The campaign quickly gained national attention when media companies like Vanity Fair, Vice, USA Today and Complex all covered the failed social media campaign. After all of the negative feedback that #myNYPD received, the NYPD chose not to respond directly and decided to carry on as if it had never occurred. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton denied the failure shortly after it began to pick up steam saying, “Send us your photos, good or bad. I welcome the extra attention.” He also clarified that the negative pictures weren’t portraying police misconduct, but sometimes this is the kind of work officers have to do.
I think this campaign was extremely unfortunate for the NYPD. The NYPD has been faced with difficult situations in the past and has had to take extreme measures to keep the city safe. If a town or smaller city had tweeted something similar I’m sure there would have been much more supportive tweets. If I had been in charge of the NYPD Twitter I don’t think I would have used this strategy. Knowing how media has controlled the image of the police in the past, it was very likely this campaign would receive a negative reaction. As one Twitter user tweeted, “Lesson number 1 about hashtags: just because you created one doesn’t mean you own it. #myNYPD.”
Bratton on Twitter Fail: I Welcome the Attention. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/NYPD-Twitter-Backlash-myNYPD-Fail-Negative-Photos-Flood-Social-Media-256275661.html
S. W. (2014). Did the NYPD Twitter screw up have any real effect on the department? Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://digiday.com/brands/nypd-hashtag-fail/
Ford, D., Lear, J., Ferrigno, L., & Gross, D. (n.d.). #D’oh! NYPD Twitter campaign backfires. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/22/tech/nypd-twitter-fail/
Lessons Learned from #myNYPD: Is There a Silver Lining? – In Public Safety. (2014). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://inpublicsafety.com/2014/04/lessons-learned-from-mynypd-is-there-a-silver-lining/
M.V. (2014). Not My NYPD: What Happened With The Failed Twitter Campaign That Unsuspectingly Encouraged Police Brutality Photos. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/not-my-nypd-what-happened-failed-twitter-campaign-unsuspectingly-encouraged-police-1575577
J. K. (2014). The Most Telling Photos From the NYPD’s Epic Twitter Fail. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.colorlines.com/articles/most-telling-photos-nypds-epic-twitter-fail