City Council seeks probe into NYPD brass’ ‘intimidating and dangerous’ social media activity

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell
Chief of Patrol John Chell
Photo by Dean Moses

The City Council has called for an investigation into the use of the NYPD’s official social media accounts after some brass have used them to publicly criticize both elected officials and members of the press.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) made the formal request to the Department of Investigation’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) for the NYPD. The request came a day after Chief of Patrol John Chell posted on X (formerly Twitter) a since-deleted post publicly criticizing City Council Member Tiffany Cabán for her condemnation of the NYPD’s actions in breaking up pro-Palestine protests at Columbia University and City College earlier in the week.

Speaker Adams wants the IG to “urgently conduct an official investigation and review that produces a subsequent report on the NYPD’s policies, practices and operations related to its use of social media.” She believes that high-ranking NYPD officials have used the official accounts to target “public officials and members of the public in ways that can be construed as intimidating, dangerous and veering into political activity, in conflict with city laws and policies.”

“The recent deployment of official NYPD social media accounts to aggressively target public officials and civilians in our city, use dog whistles that can lead to threats and violence, and convey inaccurate information, is dangerous, unethical and unprofessional,” the speaker said in a May 3 statement. “New Yorkers rely on agency officials to provide essential information, and these latest activities diverge from the department’s core mission and responsibilities. This recent behavior undermines public confidence in the department at a time when public safety requires stronger trust, and sends a bad message to the rank-and-file officers of our city simply wanting to perform their basic duties.”

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

For weeks now, Chell has used his X platform as a bully pulpit to berate elected officials and reporters who take a critical view of the NYPD’s actions. It began in March and April when Chell, Chief of Transit Michael Kemper and Assistant Commissioner Kaz Daughtry used their official X accounts to criticize Daily News columnist Harry Siegel for a piece regarding subway crime.

Chell, Kemper and Daughtry accused Siegel of purposely publishing misinformation in an effort to slur the NYPD. After the Daily News corrected some factual errors in Siegel’s column, the NYPD posted on its official account a word of thanks to the Daily News, but also called Siegel “Deceitful.”


Chell also used his X account on March 29 to criticize progressive advocate Olayemi Olurin, who challenged Mayor Eric Adams about allegedly “fearmongering” subway crime in an interview on radio’s The Breakfast Club. The chief of patrol went as far as to challenge Olurin to attend the funeral of slain Queens Police Officer Jonathan Diller the following day.

Since these incidents, Chell defended his actions with other members of the press. On April 2, he said it was essential for he and his colleagues to respond quickly to reports that they believe are inaccurate or defamatory against the NYPD.

“From my point of view, if you are going to go after our cops and say nonfactual things, if you are going to dismiss a cop’s death on a radio show, we are going to respond back,” Chief Chell said at an April 2 briefing. “We are going to start pushing back and I think the issue is people are not used to it.”

An hour after the City Council publicly announced the requested IG probe into NYPD social media activity, Chell again took to X and seemingly indicated he would continue his pugnacious social media approach — linking back to Daughtry, the NYPD’s official X account, and Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard.

“We @NYPDDaughtry @NYPDnews @NYPDDCPI had, and will continue to have, a strong weekly platform to tell our story,” Chell wrote on X. “A platform to highlight the daily work of the greatest police department in the world. This is now a two way street with our reach hitting millions!”

Chell has publicly insisted the posts on his X account are his own, as some speculated whether the NYPD had others involved in his and other official accounts. After Chell’s post targeting Cabán was deleted Thursday, he reposted his original response to the Council member and said “it was an accident” that it was erased the first time.


Cabán — who was a cosigner of a NYC Progressive Caucus letter to Mayor Adams sent on Friday seeking an investigation into Chell’s social media activity, alleging it violates the Conflicts of Interest Law — wrote on X that it was time for Chell to face “consequences for his gross misconduct,” and referenced his past departmental history which included a fatal shooting.

“The deleted tweet is a reminder that Chell is used to just sweeping away his misdeeds, like when he fatally shot a man in the back, lied about it in court per the jury’s findings, and not only kept his job but got promoted. Enough,” she wrote.

City Council Member Tiffany Caban at rally over housing vouchers bill
Queens City Council Member Tiffany Caban speaks at a City Hall rally on July 13, 2023.Gerardo Romo / NYC Council Media Unit