NYPD Orders Commander to Shutter “Release Alerts” Twitter Feed

January 4, 2013 | Andy Cush

The NYPD recently put an end to a technically legal but ethically dubious practice put into place by 76th Precinct Commander Jeffery Schiff: using Twitter to publicly disseminate pictures and names of released convicts spotted in Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Gowanus, and Cobble Hill. Though the information is public, to spread it in such an open forum raised questions about the nature of rehabilitation in the criminal justice system. “I’ve seen other police departments and precincts using things like Twitter and Facebook to post people that they’re looking for,” said NYU criminal law professor Rachel Barkow. “I haven’t heard of anyone doing it for this. It sort of undercuts the idea of someone reentering society.”

According to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the department wants to develop a standardized plan for social media before individual precincts move forward with it. “We want to examine the whole issue. Obviously, social media, we want to use it productively. We want to use it legally. A lot of this is just new ground. It needs to be examined, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We need, probably, a comprehensive approach to it, rather than a command-by-command, unit-by-unit, approach.”

(Image: 76PrecinctNYPD/Twitter)