Since being elected mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio has taken it upon himself and New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Braxton to rehabilitate the NYPD’s damaged reputation.
“Morale coming into this department was awful,” Bratton said in an interview last month with New York City’s WABC. “The public didn’t understand that, politicians didn’t understand it, but it was a very dispirited organization. It was an organization, I think, beat down over several years, beaten up by the political establishment.”
Bratton laid the blame on former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s heavy use of “stop and frisk,” a tactic that led to federal oversight and monitoring based on the marked targeting of blacks and Latinos.
“The commissioner and the former mayor did a great job in the sense of keeping the community safe, keeping crime down, but one of the tools used to do that, I believe, was used too extensively,” continued Bratton.
With memories still fresh of the brutality leveled against the Occupy protesters, the police force’s overreach in observing Muslim communities and the campaign of “instilling fear” by targeting young minority men, using disproportionate violence and attacking those that document department abuses, the city has grown desperate to escape the legacy of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
A photo of a New York City patrol officer escorting an allegedly blind elderly woman two blocks to her destination went viral after it was posted to the NYPD’s Facebook page earlier this month. The photo, representing one of the few legitimate pieces of positive press the NYPD has received in recent memory, prompted a groundswell of support and goodwill for the bedeviled police force.
Hoping to capitalize on this, Bratton asked the public to send in more photos of their interactions with the NYPD under the Twitter hashtag #myNYPD. While some photos submitted show the NYPD in a positive light, others brought up the ghosts of the police force’s past deeds. In one photo, a police officer is seen yanking the hair of a handcuffed woman. Another shows a police officer raising a fist to a protesting woman.
Though one user tweeted a photo of an NYPD officer apparently sleeping on the subway, the hashtag #myNYPD overwhelmingly came to highlight the police force’s struggles with police brutality. It was also cloned to reflect abuses by police departments in other cities — #myCPD for Chicago, #myLAPD for Los Angeles and #myAPD for Albuquerque, where three suspects were killed as the result of police action in a recent five-week span.
“Can’t let #myNYPD and #myLAPD have all the fun,” one Twitter user tweeted along with a picture of a man allegedly beaten by police officers in Chicago. “#myCPD brutalizes innocent black people too!”
Bratton dismissed criticism of the hashtag, blaming most of the negative pictures on past administrations and promising to continue the NYPD’s social media outreach.
“Was that particular reaction from some of the police adversaries anticipated?” said Bratton. “To be quite frank, it was not, but at the same time it’s not going to cause us to change any of our efforts to be very active on social media.”
“We’ll continue to go forward. It is what it is. It’s an open, transparent world.”