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NYPD Dance Team: Why the internet is up in arms

A recent viral video of the NYPD Dance team’s performance on a TV news segment has ignited debates on its impact, funding and community effects

By Police1 Staff

NEW YORK — In recent weeks, a video of the NYPD Dance team performing for a local news outlet went viral, sparking widespread online debate and criticism. The unexpected spotlight has led to intense discussion about the team, funding and the impact on the community.

Who are the NYPD Dance team?

The NYPD Dance Team, formed in 2022, is a volunteer club comprised of members of the New York Police Department. Any member of the NYPD or any civilian member of the service can join, according to the group’s president Autumn-Rain Martinez.

The NYPD Dance Team is among about four dozen competitive groups within the department, the New York Times reports. Other groups include the NYPD Paint Ball, the NYPD Rugby Football Club and the NYPD Pistol Team.

During the initial Pix11 broadcast, Martinez mentioned that the goal of the team was to make sure members “had a space to release our mental stress… we have a lot of things we see on the job…so we have to have a space to decompress.” The group also does community outreach, like going to schools to help kids exercise.

Why are people upset about the NYPD Dance team?

The controversy surrounding the NYPD Dance team stems from a misconception about the team’s funding and its potential impact on the overall department’s operational effectiveness. Critics, including high-profile figures Joe Rogan and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, voiced concern that the team could be diverting essential resources away from crime prevention and public safety in a city grappling with significant crime rates.

In response to the backlash, the team, the department and the city’s mayor clarified details about the NYPD Dance team’s operations.

The team purchases their own uniforms and does not practice while on duty, an NYPD spokesperson told The National Desk. New York City Mayor Eric Adams also confirmed that the team was not funded through taxpayer or police department funds.

The officers’ perspectives

The officers who are members of the NYPD Dance team have underlined that their participation is simply a positive outlet to connect to the community by humanizing the police force. It also provides a needed personal outlet to help them balance the stress and strain of their jobs.

“This team SERVES and protects! Honored to join the NYPD Dance team at City Hall,” Mayor Adams wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I think it’s so important that our women and men in uniform have outlets like this to express themselves and bond. They work hard on the clock and dance hard off the clock — like true New Yorkers.”

Martinez, the team’s president, highlighted that the department has other similar teams across basketball, volleyball, and golf. She also addressed the impact of the increased attention on the team.

“Even with the comments we’ve been getting, we’ve been just leaning on each other, just supporting each other,” Martinez told Pix11 about the team’s response to the unexpected controversy. “It’s already tough being on this job, but then to have more things like that for doing something we love doing is kind of hard.”

The impact of negative media coverage on police recruitment

The widespread online debate triggered by the NYPD Dance Team’s viral video underscores the complex relationship between police departments and public perception. This event has fueled discussions around departmental funding, resource allocation and the broader implications of such public relations efforts on law enforcement agencies. Negative media coverage of police activities, regardless of the context, can have a profound impact on the morale and operational effectiveness of law enforcement agencies.

Police1’s “What Cops Want in 2023” survey highlighted a concerning trend: negative portrayals of law enforcement in the media contribute to challenges in recruiting new officers and retaining current ones. When respondents were asked what they believed has had the biggest negative impact on officer recruitment and retention since 2020, 79% selected media coverage of police issues.

The case of the NYPD Dance Team is illustrative of a broader issue: initiatives aimed at community engagement and humanizing the police force can be misconstrued, leading to public backlash and negative media coverage. While these initiatives are designed to build bridges between the police and the communities they serve, misinterpretations of their intent and funding can undermine these efforts, further entrenching skepticism and distrust between law enforcement and the public.

NEXT! Continue the discussion: Read a police PIO’s take on crafting a strategy to respond to viral news