Police Commissioner’s Tweet Sends a Message of Contrast
By J. DAVID GOODMAN, NY Times, JAN. 23, 2014
The messages appeared unexpectedly, live missives posted online from inside one of the New York Police Department’s most cloistered gatherings: a weekly, closed-door CompStat meeting at 1 Police Plaza.
Where once such an occurrence — if it occurred at all — might have been chalked up to a rogue officer, the Twitter postings on Thursday morning came with the full participation of the new police commissioner.
For a department long wary of social media, it was a first: a speech delivered at the podium on the eighth floor of Police Headquarters — the hot seat, as it is known — and then blasted across the Internet. For Commissioner William J. Bratton, whose words were quoted, it was something more: a quick and breezy method of signaling change at the top.
By the time he finished speaking on Thursday morning, Mr. Bratton had announced the creation of his own official Twitter account, in contrast with his predecessor, Raymond W. Kelly, who never had one.
“Follow me here,” a message posted to his account, @CommissBratton, read. “Should be the start of a beautiful relationship.”
That Internet-ready post joined nearly two dozen from the CompStat meeting. The regular gatherings of precinct commanders to review local crime trends were pioneered by Mr. Bratton during his previous tenure as commissioner in the 1990s.
There have, of course, been many changes since then, though the meetings — which have been emulated by law enforcement agencies around the country — still strike fear into the hearts of police commanders. The Police Department now has a counterterrorism division, and a Facebook page. The counterterrorism division was marked by innovations; the Facebook page was not.
Over the last year, many departments across the country have held “tweet-alongs” with officers, a kind of ride-along for the digital set, said Nancy Kolb, who oversees a center on social media at the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “Communities love it,” she said.
In this area, the New York Police Department has lagged. Earlier forays onto social media by precinct commanders and individual officers resulted in some problematic posts.
And while Mr. Kelly had been seen following Twitter on his screen by visitors to his command center, he never created his own presence on the site. (A satirical account — Fake Ray Kelly — was the closest thing.)
The messages on Thursday on the official @NYPDNews account did not provide great insight into the tensions that often run through CompStat meetings, or touch on the localized crime trends that would have been discussed. But the posts offered a small window into the message being heard at headquarters — for the public, and the officers on the street.
“It flattens out the process of communication between the top and the troops, as well as the city,” said Roy T. Richter, the president of the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents the upper echelons of officers. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything generated immediately from a CompStat meeting,” he added.
Mr. Bratton’s were the only words quoted at Thursday’s meeting. They included praise for the department, his vision of a collaborative relationship between the police and the city, and support for a decision to issue tickets to jaywalkers on the Upper West Side after a pedestrian died in traffic last weekend.
“Officers of the #24Pct have done and excellent job #traffic re: 96/Bway,” he was quoted as saying (with some idiosyncrasies of the form thrown in. along with an apparent typo). He added: “The #24Pct commander took initiative taking action, addressing jay walking.”
It was not clear whether this bit of transparency would continue, or whether Mr. Bratton had been or would be the author of his own posts. A department spokesman did not respond to questions about the postings.
A version of this article appears in print on January 24, 2014, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Police Commissioner’s Tweet Sends a Message of Contrast. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe