Campaign of shame: New York police union asks members to upload photos of homeless people
NYPD officers (torbakhopper/Flickr)

Sergeants Benevolent Association launches campaign to showcase ‘quality of life offenses of every type’ apparently to publicly shame individuals pictured

A New York police union has asked its members to take pictures of homeless people on the streets and “quality of life offenses of every type” and post them on a photo-sharing website, in an apparent campaign to publicly shame the individuals and prompt action from city officials.

The Sergeants Benevolent Association has launched a campaign called “Peek-a-boo, I see you” and has created a Flickr page filled with images of many New Yorkers at their most vulnerable – sleeping rough or begging for money or food.

Union president Ed Mullins wrote to officers of the New York police department urging them to use smartphones to snap photographs on their way to and from work or while off duty – they are not permitted to do so while on duty – and send them in to be uploaded to the page.

The result is a pictorial catalogue of misery pitched for maximum embarrassment to the individuals: most are photographed seemingly unawares or looking startled, while sleeping or sitting on the street next to buildings or in alleys or doorways. Some photographs even show people relieving themselves on the street.

Mullins has a hostile relationship with city mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council and has complained that New York City is in decline because of increased permissiveness over vagrancy, urinating in public, smoking marijuana on the street and homelessness.

Mullins also wrote another letter to union members complaining that nothing was being done by city officials to heal “problems between the police and the communities we serve” and accused them of pushing an “anti-police legislative agenda”.

“We are the good guys,” the letter repeatedly said.

The Peek-a-boo campaign has been picked up enthusiastically by the New York Post, which joined in by splashing its front page with a picture of a man urinating in the street, under the headline “20 years of cleaning up New York City pissed away”.

The SBA letter sent to members about the Peek-a-boo program has accused the city under De Blasio’s leadership of “failed policies, more homeless encampments on city streets, a 10 percent increase in homicides, and the diminishing of our hard-earned and well-deserved public perception of the safest large city in America”.

Mullins also defended his actions in asking officers to take pictures of homeless people by saying that, with more police actions being recorded by the public using smart phones, “shouldn’t accountability go both ways?” © Guardian News and Media 2015