The BPD is arguably one of the more media savvy police forces, maintaining active Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts along with the BPDnews.com site which highlights police activity, especially the warm fuzzy kind of stories that feel like big wet dog kisses from McGruff the crime dog.
In a tweet sent Sunday praising recent public engagement, BPD said they “had a great time ‘doing the dap’ and talking public safety with the kids from the Lyndon School in West Roxbury” #CuzWeCare.
— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) May 14, 2017
It did not take long for Twitter users to pounce on the mis-identification of the dance move in question prompting a doubling down by the BPD: “‘Dabbing’ or ‘dapping’…it’s still #CommunityPolicing at its finest!”
“Dabbing” or “dapping”…it’s still #CommunityPolicing at its finest!
— Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) May 15, 2017
Responses ranged from raised eybrow memes and GIFs to more incisive indictments of the Department’s lack of connection to the community it serves, particularly communities of color.
While the distinction between a “dab” and a “dap” may seem like a nuance of youth slang / culture, best suited for discourse in the Urban Dictionary comments section, it becomes yet another example of disconnection when used for a photo op-by a BPD that aggressively tries to curate its image and place in the news narrative as much as it avoids engaging with real community critique.
This is not the first time the BPD has come under fire for what at the time must have seemed like a great idea for community outreach. Their new $89,000 ice cream truck, purchased for “Operation Hoodsie Cup” (where police give out ice cream to kids around the city) has been blasted as wasteful and ineffective at establishing meaningful relationships with community and youth and programs like “Operation Safe Homes” and “Stop and Frisk” have been called out as unconstitutional by the ACLU and other members of the legal community.
Even among their own membership the BPD struggles to find credibility and support in their efforts to diversify and connect with community, drawing and ignoring consistent critique from the Massachuseets Association of Minority Law Enforcment Officers (MAMLEO) while touting token and figurehead appointments lacking on-the-ground power. Meanwhile the latest figures for BPD new hires show 75% of new officers are white although Boston (a “majority-minority” city) is continuing to become even more diverse.
The optics problem for the BPD has not gone away and will persist until more than superficial actions are taken to reform the organization. For those who think this was just a twitter blunder, there are more serious questions it points to for anyone who is critical of the BPD and holds them to a higher standard of public service.
- Who runs their social media / PR? Do they employ any young people? Any people of color? Anyone who would immediately know not to appropriate a dance move for PR without even being able to pronounce (spell) it correctly?
- Are there follow up resources listed for other citizens/schools to connect with this program or was this tweet merely a pat on the back?
- Did anyone think to do the public safety engagement which preceded the dab with students from schools / districts more directly impacted by the recent rash of shootings and violence? (The Lyndon School is located in the E-5 Police district which had just over 2% of the city’s homicides over 20 years, whereas Roxbury / Mission Hill had %26, Mattapan, %22 and Dorchester, %19 (some of which occured on school grounds) If yes, why were these engagements not highlighted?
- Does the BPD ever admit getting anything wrong, even when it is obvious?
The answers illuminate a gravity beyond an honest PR goof and the inevitable ensuing twitter roast. Time and again the BPD has been criticized for poor community relations and returned the critique in kind, citing unwillingness from witnesses and citizens as the reason it’s investigations fail to effectively curb violence and shootings or deliver justice. At the same time, efforts to reform the BPD and implement community oversight and accountability have been met with consistent resistance by the department from top brass on down to the union which represents officers.
The Blackstonian has been documenting and raising these kind of critiques since well before the new administration took over yet community demands gathered from our Black and Blue Town Hall Meetings, Rally for Solutions and ongoing Mass Police Reform campaign still lack the political and policy backing to become reality.
From City Level Reform Goals on Mass Police Reform:
- Restore good faith of community in BPD, repair disconnect and increase public trust.
- Establish and maintain “Police Legitimacy” using the practice of “Procedural Justice”
- Transform BPD’s organization and culture as it relates to deadly force, excessive force and police brutality
- Update BPD’s Use of Force Policy to meet or exceed current national standards
- Require De-escalation training for officers and include an evaluation component.
- Improve Police Accountability
- Improve Diversity at All Levels Including Command and Management
Until the BPD changes its focus from looking good to doing good, from seeming connected to being connected and changes its personnel, policies and culture to make that focus reality, we can count on them to continue to ignore even the most constructive of criticism and remain an organization that not only appears to be woefully out of touch but more troublingly and dangerously one that wishes to be. #CuzWeCare
Salute to Anj for the tip. #BlackstonianUReport