It obviously seemed like a really fun idea at the time.
In a lighthearted effort to connect with the people it serves, the NYPD’s public relations department decided to utilize Twitter and invite users to send in photos of themselves with New York cops.
“Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook,” the police department wrote in a tweet Tuesday morning.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 22, 2014
So, did anyone have any photos of everyday folk ‘engaging’ with New York law enforcement officers? You betcha. Except that instead of smiling faces and warm embraces, many of the images posted with the hashtag showed New York cops pinning members of the public to the ground, or scenes that, to put it mildly, don’t really paint the department in the best light.
While the NYPD had surely been hoping to see images like this….
— vane•matus☮ (@vanvanmt) April 22, 2014
….instead it received many like these:
— Adrian Kinloch (@adriankinloch) April 22, 2014
— Casey Aldridge (@CaseyJAldridge) April 22, 2014
— [OAKLAND]ASM (@OLAASM) April 22, 2014
There was even one of a dog being frisked.
— Elif Batuman (@BananaKarenina) April 23, 2014
Trying desperately to put a positive spin on the reaction to its hashtag, the department’s deputy chief, Kim Y. Royster, said in a statement, “The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community,” adding, “Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialog good for our city.”
Of course, it’s not the first time – and certainly won’t be the last – that an organization has messed up with a PR campaign using Twitter hashtags. McDonald’s, UK supermarket chain Waitrose, and Australia’s national carrier, Qantas – to name just a few – have all ended up red-faced after failed attempts to embrace social media.