The NYPD has fallen prey to another Twitter miscue after a high-ranking officer responded to community outrage over a grand jury’s decision declining to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.
After the grand jury released its decision on Wednesday, protesters in New York City took to the streets while #EricGarner and #ICantBreathe trended on Twitter.
Chief of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau Joanne Jaffe tweeted Wednesday afternoon:
— Chief Joanne Jaffe (@NYPDCommAffairs) December 3, 2014
By midday Thursday, the hashtag had been hijacked, with tweets like these:
— Michael Crawford (@dmcrawford) December 3, 2014
If you can hear US why couldn’y you hear the man that was murdered while TELLING YOU he couldn’t breath? #WeHearYou? Yeah, right.
— The L (@lbutlr) December 4, 2014
The NYPD tweet comes after the department sent its top officers to “Twitter school” in September, where they were cautioned to refrain from reactive responses and encouraged to laud community groups, send out wanted posters and post crime stats, according to the New York Post. This decision came on the heels of #myNYPD’s backfire in April.
The lesson here for communicators of any rank and market is that you may not want to fight fire with fire. Although the critical response to the jury decision continues to gain ground and cohesion through Twitter and its hashtag system, the NYPD only opened itself up for more negative sentiment by giving users an easy way to attack the department.
In any potential crisis, the best response may not be to respond immediately, however necessary it may seem. In a situation as politically charged as this, the department may have seen more effective communication after some time had passed, which would also allow them to deliver a more prudent and encompassing response that would address the nuances and intricacies enveloping the situation.