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Hipster Cop is the nickname of New York Police Department (NYPD) Detective Rick Lee. After a photo of him was taken at Occupy Wall Street, Lee’s plainclothes but stereotypically hipster uniform brought him much attention.
Rick Lee is a 45-year-old NYPD Community Affairs Detective in the 1st Precinct whose photos were taken at the Occupy Wall Street protests and posted to Twitter on October 10th, 2011. Three days later, Gawker editor Adrien Chen posted a photo of Lee to his personal Tumblr, which received over 1,300 notes. Chen had seen Lee in action while covering the Radiohead show hoax at Zuccotti Park on September 30th, witnessing him flash a badge from under his cardigan sweater.
As the photo continued spread across Twitter, a number of New York City blogs and mainstream news outlets including Gothamist, Washington Post, NPR, The Atlantic reported on the curiously fashion-conscious police officer who had been regularly seen at Zucotti Park. On October 14th, he was witnessed chatting with political activist / guitarist Tom Morello. On October 18th, New York Times published an article revealing his identity as the 45-year-old NYPD Detective Rick Lee, acknowledging that he found his local fame amongst the protesters and in the New York City blogosphere humorous.
The Gothamist reported several personal facts about Lee provided by an anonymous tipster, revealing that he is a single Staten Island resident and a bicycle enthusiast, eats organic foods, does not participate in social networking and wears modified Ray Ban sunglasses with prescription lenses.
On October 20th, Lee did a photo shoot and interview with mens’ magazine GQ, in which he dismissed the hipster moniker and said a more appropriate title would be the “Country Gentleman Cop.” He also defended his choice of attire as a way to get past people’s preconceived notions about police officers:
“I learned early on that the way I’m dress[ed], or the way anyone dresses affects things. You have to know your audience. The people that I serve in this community are a lot like me. I don’t necessarily fit the stereotype of the word ‘cop.’ So when they see that I dress kinda cool, wear thin ties, look trendy, it breaks a lot of walls down initially to get the bridge building started. It actually works.”
On May 1st, 2012, YouTuber occupysteph uploaded a video titled “Hipster Cop Hates Music”, which featured footage of Lee ordering several Occupy protesters to lower the volume of their music (shown below). The following day, the video was highlighted in an article on The Huffington Post titled “‘Hipster Cop’ Yells At Occupy Wall Street Protest Band JD Samson & Men On May Day.”
Shortly after the news media coverage surrounding the cop’s internet fame, BuzzFeed presented a series of captioned images portraying Detective Lee as a police officer with an aura of cultural elitism in similar vein to other hipster-themed image macros. In the following days, compilations of notable examples from the series were featured on the Connecticut news site CT.com and the internet culture blog Uproxx. On October 14th, 2011 a Quickmeme page titled “Hipster Cop” was created. On November 15th, a parody Twitter account @FakeHipsterCop was launched with tweets that are reminiscent of the captions in the image macro series.
Search query volume for “hipster cop” and “detective rick lee” reached their highest peak in October of 2011, the same month the first photos of Detective Lee appeared online.