The New York Police Department has discovered the perils of trying to engage with Twitter to boost its own image, after a campaign to get the public sharing pictures of "#myNYPD" prompted thousands to share images of apparent police brutality.
Launching the hashtag last night, the force asked members of the public to tweet them "a photo with a member of the NYPD", adding that it may be used on the department's Facebook page.
Do you have a photo w/ a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD. It may be featured on our Facebook. pic.twitter.com/mE2c3oSmm6
The request actually received a number of positive replies, with people posting images of themselves arm-in-arm with smiling, helpful police officers. To the first of these, the force even responded personally, saying: "Thanks for the photo! Keep them coming..."
Yet just one hour after the initial post the mood changed, and what followed was a torrent of anger and sarcasm about how "helpful" the NYPD can be.
Perhaps predictably, users were quick to bring up the story from earlier this year of an 84-year-old man left with a beaten and bloody face after he was arrested by police for jaywalking.
Activist groups like Occupy Wall St and Copwatch quickly got in on the act, and before long the topic was trending as hundreds of images of apparent abuse poured in.
One user wrote: "#myNYPD cares about noise control, so they'll shoot a homeless man's dog while he's having a seizure."
Another, with a picture of a woman being dragged along by three officers, said: "The NYPD will also help you de-tangle your hair. #myNYPD"
This wasn't the first time a PR team has launched a seemingly short-sighted social media campaign, but the force was presumably unaware of the cautionary tale of "#McDStories", which saw McDonald's customers share their most horrific fast food experiences.
#myNYPD cares about noise control, so they'll shoot a homeless man's dog while he's having a seizure #NYPD pic.twitter.com/0N7KQqFhzX
The #NYPD will also help you de-tangle your hair. #myNYPD pic.twitter.com/nrngQ1bOWv
The department quickly stopped responding to the individuals sharing pictures with them and, in a sign that the campaign perhaps hasn't gone to plan, so far none of the images have been featured on its Facebook page.
Asked about the spectacular public backlash, a force spokesperson insisted that the hashtag had been a good idea.
Deputy Chief Kim Royster told CNN: "The NYPD is creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community.
"Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city."
Need a lift? The #NYPD's got you! Free Delivery, Only at #myNYPD pic.twitter.com/AStS3ZjoZu
Sometimes the jokes write themselves. #S17 #myNYPD pic.twitter.com/Wrp6RGpByZ
- UK Independent