I’m sure it seemed like a great idea. The NYPD asked New Yorkers to pose with NYPD officers and post their heart-warming photographs to twitter with the hashtag #myNYPD. I guess the geniuses in their social media department thought this would elicit Mayberry style images of neighborhood cops being heroes. Well, this isn’t the 50s. Or Mayberry.
What happened instead was that the #myNYPD hashtag was absolutely flooded with images of police brutality. Captions for images were almost all entirely snarky. Though there were a couple straightforward images along the lines the NYPD had desired, these were completely overshadowed by bad PR.
Again, this puts into focus the fact that the next generation is far less trusting of authority than the previous one. Most Millennials have no great love for the police and no great confidence that the police, or any other arms of the civil government, are actually there for the public good.
Some of this has to do with the fact that the internet capitalizes on scandal and tragedy—so stories of police brutality are more likely to go viral than that story about the one police officer that helped Grandma get her cat out of a tree. But the sheer number of these kind of stories is disturbing. Even if they were not the norm for all police officers, they indicate that the culture within law enforcement has shifted from protection and service to brutality and abuse.
The best PR campaign for the police would be a systemic overhaul of their culture and tactics. Stop shooting dogs, for one. Stop forcibly entering people’s homes and searching people’s cars for spurious reasons. Stop buying armored vehicles. Stop lying in wait to give out tickets. Respond to emergency calls and find and stop real violent criminals. That would do so much more for you than any twitter campaign ever could. Especially this one. Ouch.