The news: Controversies regarding excessive force and racial profiling by various police forces have brought the behavior of "America's finest" into question. But in its quest to solve the problem, here's a hint for the New York Police Department: Police officers' lack of humor is not the issue here.
The New York Post recently reported the NYPD is being trained in public-friendly social media use. Not only is there a Twitter handbook that instructs officers on how to use "tasteful humor" and gain followers,
but the top brass were forced to take a class on Twitter rules and etiquette, too.
"It's a lot more work ... Now I have to worry about social media on top of everything else I have to do," a police source told the Post.
The NYPD certainly has an image problem. Officers have been taking Twitter classes for a while at John Jay College, being instructed to "use common sense" when interacting with the public via social media. But while this seems like a good idea in theory, it's sad that things had to come to this point.
In recent months, the NYPD has had several Twitter controversies. In July, a precinct captain got into trouble for making a joke about a woman's subway death with this tweet: "Let me guess, driver's fault right?"
Naturally, he had to apologize:
And let's not forget the #myNYPD debacle, when the department tried to promote itself with a hashtag — and quickly saw it hijacked into a conversation about police brutality:
But this is more than a public relations issue. While it's easy to blame these Twitter snafus on tone-deaf officers and Twitter novices, the fact remains that there are underlying concerns about police brutality and misbehavior that the NYPD is failing to address. As the #myNYPD fiasco showed, there is still significant distrust from the public concerning New York officers' actions — and cracking a few PG-13 joke is not going to fix that.
Instead of trying to gain Twitter followers with a few laughs, the NYPD could instead make real attempts to amend its image and regain the public trust, such as stopping discriminatory profiling based on race and religion, not seizing innocent people's money, and not getting drunk and randomly shooting at passers-by — and at each other.
Honestly, Twitter presence might be the least of the NYPD's issues at this point.