The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) new twitter hashtag, #mynypd,which it hoped to use to reach out to its community, has backfired. The police asked twitter users to post positive images of New Yorkers with NYPD officers. Instead, users who were still angry after numerous incidents of police brutality posted those images instead.
Many users referenced incidents like the department’s ″stop and frisk″ policy which has been proven to target African American members of the city. White citizens were hardly touched by the department’s intrusive search of citizens on the streets of New York. Many of those intrusions resulted in the prosecution of nonviolent criminals who might have been doing something as innocuous as carrying a little marijuana. Marijuana offenders are ineligible for student loans and carry the stigma of a criminal record for the rest of their lives.
In some cases, police repeatedly accosted African Americans who were upstanding members of the community, including at least one Harvard student living in the city to intern with a Wall Street firm. So, when the NYPD instituted the new twitter hashtag, these old feelings of injustice were stirred, prompting users to ensure that the public relations effort backfired.
Ire over the department’s ″white shirt″ officers was also noted by users. The officers in white shirts are commanders who have take the role of enforcer. They are known to be on the payroll of Wall Street firms, and their crossed-allegiance was much discussed during the Occupy Wall Street protests, during which many white shirts were noted for their particular brutality.
The Occupy Wall Street protests were largely prompted by the deep trouble Wall Street traders caused for the U.S. economy. The protesters were concerned that, though there seemed to be many laws broken by Wall Street bankers, none of those bankers were prosecuted or investigated for possible crimes. Rather, the NYPD chose to beat and arrest those calling for justice.
Twitter user Omar Cruz reminded twitter users of his former middle school teacher, Felix Cross, who was killed by and NYPD officer who was driving and reportedly talking on a cellphone. Internal Affairs continues to investigate the incident, but police are specially trained to operate vehicles with utmost care and caution. That an officer killed a pedestrian is cause for grave concern.
Users pointed to the NYPD’s use of surveillance against Muslim citizens, a cause for concern among many who fear a growing culture of surveillance and a lack of privacy in private life. Other Twitter users noted less shocking incidents such as reckless driving. Such problems are minor relative to a broken arm or bloody skull resulting from a billy club, but these memories add up to a poor image in the mind of the public.
The NYPD’s attempt to reach out to the community has many miles to go before it can put to rest the memory of the violence and injustices it perpetrated against the citizens of New York City and each of its burroughs. The twitter hashtag backfire is just one sign that the rift between the NYPD and those it is sworn to protect and serve is deep and wide.
By Hobie Anthony