On Wednesday, the New York Police Department took to Twitter to brag about stopping a nefarious criminal conspiracy: shoplifting diapers, laundry detergent, and medicine.
“After receiving numerous larceny complaints in the Bronx, officers from the @NYPD44Pct recently arrested 12 individuals following an enforcement initiative targeting shoplifters,” the 44th Precinct proudly shared on Wednesday in a since-deleted tweet that was archived on the Wayback Machine. “The arrests made led to the closure of 23 warrants & the recovery of $1800 worth of merchandise.”
If you spend a moment examining the photo, you will see harmful contraband such as: Pampers diapers, Huggies diapers and baby wipes, Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo, All laundry detergent, Irish Spring soap bars, Tylenol, Mucinex cough syrup, and body wash.
On social media, the backlash was immediate. “On TV, NYPD are fun goofballs who get into prank wars and stop murderers. In reality, NYPD arrest parents who are at[sic] desperately trying to get diapers and formula for their babies,” reads one tweet. Another asks for praise for "the brave, handsome nypd officers who bravely cost taxpayers a ton of money confiscating soap and diapers from infants so they could turn around and bravely throw them away anyway."
A reporter at The Appeal tweeted that she learned "the addresses of two of the people appear to be homeless shelters. One is a 64-year-old woman."
Sure, one might say the tweet is missing the full context of the alleged crimes, but it's hard to see how seizing a seemingly minor amount of baby products and toiletries is at the top of the NYPD's priority list, much less something to brag about. $1800 divided amongst 12 individuals is $150. All this, mind you, the same day NYC Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a $98 billion city budget that cut the NYPD’s $5.4 billion in funding by $30 million while calling for across-the-board cuts to most of New York City’s agencies as well as layoffs.
But perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise, if you look at what other minor things police in NYC boast about.
In 2017, the NYPD shared a photo of a drug bust, with the meager proceeds splayed out on a table: $100, a few ziplocs of weed and dimebags of a white powder, scales, and vape oil. “Gang members arrested and drugs recovered by @NYPDPSA9 officers. Keeping #Flushing #Queens safe - that’s #NYPDprotecting,” reads a tweet from the NYPD's official account.
In 2020―the year before recreational cannabis use was made legal in New York―the Transit Police posted a squad pic bragging about yet another bust but neglected to share a picture of what was seized. "Some people may disagree - but transporting ziplock bags of marijuana & a digital scale in your backpack does not make you an essential traveler in the eyes of the Transit police,” the tweet reads. “Hopping a turnstile while doing so didn’t help either. Nice grab by our District 1 team!"
As one public defender put it in a response to the deleted diaper tweet, this is just the latest display of how the NYPD doesn't offer public safety so much as put "cruelty on display."
Motherboard reached out to the NYPD for comment.