Now this debate has boiled over in bizarre fashion: The Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York has been urging officers and their friends and families to photograph signs of disorder and post them on Flickr. The goal, as the New York Post wrote, is to "document the decline of the city."
The association's photo stream now contains several hundred photos of homeless people sleeping in doorways, panhandlers pleading for money and — in occasionally graphic detail — New Yorkers relieving themselves in public.
The cumulative effect makes it look a lot like the police, if they can't clean up the homeless, are mocking them instead. And the name of the photo initiative doesn't help that impression: "Peek-a-Boo." The images, scrolling down for several pages, zoom in on New Yorkers at their worst moments and when they're most vulnerable.
SBA president Ed Mullins told the New York Post that the campaign is meant, rather, to target public officials (the SBA didn't respond to our requests for comment). But he also cited the fact that police are increasingly filmed on the job. “Shouldn’t accountability go both ways?” he asked.
Mullins emailed the PBA's members this week urging them to contribute to the initiative to push back against the city's "failed policies" around policing. It's entirely possible, though, that the tenor of the stunt will only reinforce the criticism that police don't treat residents with dignity.