Frequent law enforcement critic Spike Lee partnered with the New York Police Department to help it improve its image.
The relationship reportedly began in 2016 after The New York City Police Foundation paid Spike DDB, Lee’s advertising agency, a $219,113 consulting fee, according to The New York Post.
Organization spokesman Brady Littlefield confirmed the relationship.
“The Foundation approached and consulted several creative teams including the Spike DDB agency to help develop a public awareness campaign that would aim to strengthen the partnership between the NYPD and the communities it serves,” said Littlefield. “We received tremendous input and ideas, and that process ultimately resulted in last spring’s neighborhood policing ad campaign.”
The filmmaker has never shied away from publicly critiquing police brutality in his films and elsewhere, and NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said that’s why the foundation wanted to work with Lee.
“You want to reach out to folks. Not just the folks who are supporters pretty consistently but also folks who have certainly been critics in the past,” Tucker said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “I knew Spike had the advertisement firm and as we were looking at various entities in that realm, I said let’s reach out and see if they would have an interest in adding their voice.”
The Do The Right Thing creator said he believes he did the right thing by working with the NYPD.
“After careful thought, I accepted the consultation assignment,” Lee said in a statment. “The NYPD came to me knowing I have been critical of them. I think it’s important for open dialogue to make what has been a tough relationship better.”
The partnership was discovered in a review of the foundation's 2016 and 2017 taxes. The foundation said both parties said wanted to keep the relationship under the radar.
“That wasn’t part of the deal,” said Tucker. “They just wanted to add value. They weren’t trying to find ways to make public we were involved. And neither were we.”
The collaboration has its critics.
Ed Mullins, president of Sergeants Benevolent Association, accused the NYPD of “alienating” its officers.
Others directed their scorn at Lee. Rapper Vic Mensa called the director "a clown.”
🤡 Told you guys he was a clown 🤡 pic.twitter.com/pBcoOaru2J— vino valentino (@VicMensa) August 17, 2018
Hank Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter Great New York, thinks the NYPD’s priorities are not in the right place.
“They went to a person who knows how to paint pictures of black people, that being Spike Lee,” Newsome said. “What they need to do is go to people providing solutions for police misconduct.”
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