from the what'd-you-expect? dept
If you were alive yesterday and opened up a web browser, you likely saw the story of how the NYPD attempted to build some social media buzz and found that attempt turned around on its ass. The police force that has previously done a decent job at connecting with people on Twitter decided to run a campaign asking the public to share photos of themselves with police officers. They probably thought most of the pictures would be of smiling and appreciative citizens and local beat cops. Let's just say their expectations were slightly off the mark.
Almost immediately after the call went out from the department's official Twitter account, storms of users took the opportunity to instead attach some of the most unfavorable images of New York City officers that could be found on the Internet. And judging by the output on Tuesday, there are quite a few. Officers holding down a photographer on the pavement and a white-shirted supervisor twisting an arm, among scores taken during Occupy Wall Street protests. An officer knocking a bicyclist to the ground during a Critical Mass protest ride, and another dancing provocatively with a barely clad paradegoer. A dog being shot. Officers on trial, or sleeping in uniform on a subway train.Oops. But this probably should have been expected in response to a police force that has had some very serious public relations problems revolving around some serious policy decisions. Stop and frisk, waste and fraud, and an apparent distaste for citizen journalists were on everyone's mind and the backlash was as severe as described above. Having found their campaign being turned into a PR nightmare, you might think the NYPD would react angrily to yesterday's mishap. It turns out they were prepared to be adults.
A spokeswoman for the department, Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster, said in a two-sentence statement Tuesday evening that the department was “creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community” and that Twitter provided “an open forum for an uncensored exchange” that is “good for our city.”Look, I realize that praising Royster's statement in light of the larger problems the NYPD has in interacting with their own citizenry may seem strange, but the fact is that both spokespeople are absolutely correct. The entire point of social media is about engagement. If that engagement doesn't go exactly as they expected, and it certainly didn't, that doesn't mean there isn't value in it. Choosing to respond in an adult way means the trolling doesn't get any worse and may actually provide an avenue for dialog that results in real change. It may be a small thing, but it's still a good thing.
The experience will not stop the department from pushing forward with social media endeavors, its top spokesman, Stephen Davis, said. “You take the good with the bad,” he said.