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Morning Spew

The NYPD’s Extremely Unhelpful Public Information Unit Gets a Shakeup

We expect more of the same, but we're ready to be surprised!

We assure you that New York is capable of sunny weather, like last Friday in the Rockaways. (Hell Gate)

A requisite part of reporting out almost any public safety story in New York City is a phone call or email to the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information over at the NYPD. The unit, commonly known as DCPI, is supposed to help reporters get concrete details about incidents that the NYPD is involved with, from the number of arrests at a protest, to the ages of crash victims, to a reason for a street closure. More often than not, the officers manning the desks at DCPI are less than helpful—curt, bored, short, feigning bewilderment, and ultimately, unhelpful. Most phone calls end with the officer telling a journalist to send an email, and many, many emails just go unanswered. 

DCPI has a rotating cast of officers, meaning reporters don't really have a specific point person to connect with if they need information. Now, the Post is reporting that over a half dozen cops at the "cushy" bureau were recently reassigned from the unit, apparently because they weren't very good at conveying information to the public. 

In an interview with the Post (which, by the way, usually gets very good and often preferential treatment from DCPI, case in point), the new head of DCPI, Tarik Sheppard, who was recently installed by NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban, said that he booted officers "who either should not be here professionally, the way they handle themselves, or some people who are resistant to change.” Sheppard went on to say that responses to the media from these DCPI officers were often “too slow” and “sometimes unprofessional." (Our own interactions over the past decade with DCPI backs up this assertion, with most emails going unanswered and phone calls resulting in quick clicks from officers). Sheppard also told the Post he wants the unit to expand its engagement with Asian and Latino media.

So does this housecleaning reflect the turning of a new leaf for DCPI? We hope so—but it's already not looking great. The Post reports that Sheppard is bringing fourteen new cops to the already several-dozen strong department, seven of whom he's bringing from his old command in Harlem. Are these unusually attentive NYPD officers, or just a select few friends who get cushy desk jobs where the main responsibility is asking someone to send an email? (Which they'll ignore.)

We've sent an email to DCPI about all this, and will update if they (ever) respond. 

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