On Tuesday April 22, the New York Police Department – NYPD’s Twitter account, @NYPDnews, asked users to post pictures of positive interactions between the public and city cops, using the hashtag #myNYPD.
Instead, people posted pictures of police brutality that took place during the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This exercise in social media outreach turned #epicfail Tuesday when users flooded Twitter with some of the NYPD’s most infamous moments of brutality.
Twitter erupted with hundreds of photos of police violence, including Occupy Wall Street arrests and the 84-year-old man who was bloodied for jaywalking on the Upper West Side earlier this year.
— Cocky McSwagsalot (@MoreAndAgain) April 22, 2014
Just before midnight, more than 70,000 people had posted comments on Twitter decrying police brutality, slamming the NYPD for the social media disaster and recalling the names of people shot to death by police. It was the top trending hashtag on Twitter by late Tuesday, replacing #HappyEarthDay.
The NYPD did not respond to questions about the negative comments or say who was behind the Twitter outreach. They released a short statement on Tuesday evening, when users were posting more than 10,000 tweets an hour.
“The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community,” said Kim Royster, an NYPD spokeswoman. “Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”
“Free massages from the #NYPD,” read one of the Occupy Wall Street tweets, which showed a young man being smashed into the trunk of a car by three cops in riot gear.
The request for pics went up shortly after 2 p.m. on the @NYPDNews Twitter page.
“Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD,” the message read. “It may be featured on our Facebook.” Then came a deluge of pictures of officers roughing up citizens and old newspaper headlines about unarmed people being shot dead by cops.
It also sparked similar hashtag trends — including myLAPD — and garnered international attention.
A tweeter from Buenos Aires, Argentina, named Rodrigo, posted a message in Spanish saying, “The NYPD promoted the use of #MyNYPD hoping for adorable photos of citizens with security forces. Political astuteness.”
Anthony Rotolo, a social media strategist and professor at Syracuse University, said, “What the NYPD did is fail to see that if there are things that can be dredged up in your environment, the louder voices of discontent will tweet them,” he said, adding they’re right not to back down.
“It would mean the crowd had shouted them down,” Rotolo said.
Not all of the posts were negative. J.P. Quinn, 40, tweeted a picture from inside the old Yankee Stadium with his brother Michael, 38, who is a detective in Brooklyn South.
“I like when they make public efforts like this. It’s a shame that it blew up like this,” said Quinn.
“I just assumed it would be all roses, like who ever came up with that for the NYPD.”
— Jeff Smith (@Jeff5mith) April 22, 2014