New York City

Who are the top NYPD officials posting controversial tweets?

In recent weeks, some NYPD leaders have used their department social media accounts to criticize journalists and a lawmaker.

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey has been among the police leaders posting on social media.

NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey has been among the police leaders posting on social media. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter may not be a beacon of respectful dialogue or decorum, but it’s not every day that you see government-run social media accounts criticizing or issuing personal attacks against individual journalists or elected officials. In recent weeks, however, some New York City Police Department leaders have channeled a more freewheeling approach to communicating with people critical of their tactics and performance, complete with disparaging nicknames. 

Recent examples include NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell attacking a judge for releasing a man he deemed a “predator” – in the process failing to correctly identify the judge and district attorney involved in the case. Top police leaders, including Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and Deputy Commissioner for Operations Kaz Daughtry also targeted their attention on an independent journalist on Twitter, including in some now-deleted posts, over her reporting on protests. In a sarcasm-laden tweet directed at City Council Member Tiffany Cabán, a frequent critic of the department, Chell suggested that New Yorkers should “vote the change you seek” in apparent reference to Cabán. And following the fatal shooting of NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller in the line of duty, Chell called on political commentator Olayemi Olurin to talk to him at Diller’s funeral service.

Over the weekend, several NYPD officials piled on journalist Harry Siegel over a column he wrote about subway crime. The piece included one incorrect statistic about the number of people who were killed in the transit system so far this year. Even after that was corrected, the official account for the department’s public information office posted a more personal attack, describing Siegel as “deceitful.”

It’s unclear if tweets sent from the accounts of individual chiefs and deputy commissioners are written by those leaders themselves, or if someone else in the department is tasked with crafting the posts. Hell Gate reported earlier this week that the NYPD hasn’t disclosed its policies guiding how officials should use social media. A social media disclaimer on the NYPD’s website said the department “endorses the secure use of social media to enhance and support NYPD program goals and objectives as well as to facilitate interaction with the community.”

The NYPD and City Hall have not backed off this approach, even under criticism. “We want to go on social media and push back on the misinformation that’s out there,” NYPD spokesperson Tarik Sheppard told The Associated Press, which chronicled the department’s recent tactics last month. “Because if we don’t, it could cause damage to the reputation of our cops and the work that we’re doing.”

Sheppard and Chell elaborated in an interview with PIX11 this week, saying that the tone they’ve taken is appropriate. “It is a two-way street,” Sheppard said. “When it comes to name-calling, I think we’ve been very reserved when it comes to that. However, when it’s appropriate and it fits, own it.”

Asked about these posts from some of the top brass in the police department on Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams defended the officials. “I want the leaders of the administration to stand up for police officers who are placing their lives on the line. And I think that’s what they’re doing,” Adams said. “Let’s not separate the fact that those who are leading these agencies are human beings. And there are many articles that have been critical of them.”

Here are some of the NYPD leaders who have embraced this controversial strategy so far.

Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey

Since 2022, Jeffrey Maddrey has served as NYPD’s chief of department, the top-ranked uniformed officer. Maddrey implements and oversees big-picture policing strategies – work he’s often asked to elaborate on during City Council hearings.

Maddrey joined the department in 1991, starting off in the 110th Precinct in northern Queens, and he has worked his way up the ranks to leadership positions in Brooklyn precincts before leading the entire Patrol Borough Brooklyn North. In summer 2020, a fraught time for the department amid Black Lives Matter protests, Maddrey was promoted to lead the Community Affairs Bureau, setting off what the commissioner at the time called a “clean slate” in police-community relations. Maddrey next led the Housing Bureau before being selected as chief of patrol in 2021.

Maddrey’s recent tweets have included posts to Talia Jane, an independent journalist who often covers how the police respond to protests. One of his tweets was later deleted. What did it say? “Hi Talia! the days of attacking my cops and then inventing false narratives to divide New Yorkers are over! New Yorkers support peaceful protest and they reject violence against my cops,” Hell Gate reported.

Maddrey’s three decades with the NYPD have not been without controversy. A former female officer filed a federal lawsuit against Maddrey in 2016, alleging sexual harassment, assault and defamation. That lawsuit was later dismissed, but Maddrey faced internal discipline – in the form of docked vacation days – over an alleged prior altercation with the plaintiff that came to light after an investigation. A suit filed in state Supreme Court by the former officer is still open, though Maddrey’s lawyer filed to have it dismissed.

Last year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated a single charge of abuse of authority against Maddrey for intervening to release a retired cop who was arrested after allegedly threatening kids with a gun. Adams defended Maddrey at the time, saying that he acted appropriately in the incident. Then-NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell moved to discipline Maddrey shortly before she stepped down, but Maddrey has denied wrongdoing and moved to fight the penalty in an administrative trial.

Chief of Patrol John Chell

As the NYPD’s chief of patrol since December 2022, John Chell is tasked with oversight of officers on patrol throughout the city’s 77 police precincts, putting him in charge of the majority of uniformed patrol officers. Chell succeeded Maddrey in the role, and most recently worked directly under his predecessor in the Patrol Services Bureau. Chell joined the department in 1994, working on patrol in central Brooklyn. According to a press release on his latest promotion, he was awarded the NYPD’s Medal for Valor in 2000.

In the past month or so, Chell has been one of the department’s more active tweeters, voicing his opinions in tweets with varying degrees of antagonism on judicial bail decisions, a City Council member, and an individual journalist and a political commentator.

Chell has steadily worked his way up the ranks to chief of patrol in his 30 years with the NYPD. The City reported in 2021 that some of his high-profile assignments have raised eyebrows among some critics, however. In 2008, Chell shot and killed a 25-year-old man. Chell said he accidentally fired the gun after the man side-swiped him in a car he was driving after breaking into it, and Chell was never criminally charged. In a civil case, however, a jury found that Chell intentionally discharged his gun, and in 2017 awarded $2.5 million to the mother of the victim.

Chief of Transit Michael Kemper

As the NYPD’s chief of transit, Kemper oversees police in the subways – a position that has likely kept him busy, amid several high-profile violent attacks over the past few months, an expanded police presence in the transit system and the deployment of new technologies like the robot that patrolled the Times Square station and the potential testing of weapon detection technology.

Kemper started at the NYPD in 1991 in southern Brooklyn’s 62nd Precinct, and previously served in leadership positions in other Brooklyn precincts. Before his promotion to chief of transit, Kemper was commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South.

Kemper has joined in on some of his colleagues’ recent tweeting, posting about Siegel’s column. After the incorrect statistic in that article was corrected, Kemper still called the article “flawed” – an assertion Siegel rejected.

Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry

An 18-year veteran of the department, Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry keeps tabs on “ongoing critical situations,” such as officer-involved shootings, major demonstrations, and even terrorist attacks and natural disasters, coordinating with city, state and federal agencies on preparing for and responding to those events, according to his department bio. He also serves as the department’s liaison to City Hall.

A close mentee of Maddrey, Daughtry has said that the now chief of department helped guide him to a career in policing when he met Maddrey while growing up in LeFrak City. Daughtry was assigned to several Brooklyn precincts, and eventually moved on to the Community Affairs Bureau, where he was credited with helping to create a rapid response team, and led a community response team in the Patrol Services Bureau. In 2023, Daughtry was promoted to assistant commissioner, before moving up to deputy commissioner earlier this year. Daughtry has championed police use of drones, and accompanied Adams on a trip to Israel in the summer of 2023, where they learned about Israeli use of drones.

Daughtry has lashed out at Siegel on Twitter – in one tweet calling him a “gadfly” – and added to Chell’s challenge to Olurin to meet them at Diller’s funeral service.

With a sizable number of misconduct allegations – 51 allegations, and 4 substantiated claims – Daughtry has come under scrutiny, including by a judge in 2008 who threw out a gun charge in an arrest Daughtry made. Daughtry has faced internal discipline for some of the misconduct claims substantiated by the CCRB, including losing vacation days in incidents where he was charged with making misleading and inaccurate statements to the CCRB and threatening the use of force.