NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea testified at a virtual public hearing Monday about interactions between cops and protesters during the demonstrations following George Floyd’s death. The hearing is part of a probe by New York State Attorney General Letitia James into the NYPD’s actions during these protests; many have alleged that police used excessive force. Criticism of the NYPD, and other US law enforcement agencies, spurred the passage of police reform legislation in this state.
Anyway, there’s a lot to unpack here. Allegedly is on deadline with other stuff, but here are some takeaways from the proceeding:
Shea claimed that the demonstrations were “different” than others, saying “the protests were almost immediately violent.” He also said there were “outside agitators” contributing to this violence. He did not provide a hard number on how many there were. Remember, the role of outside agitators in any of the violence has repeatedly come into question. Per the New York Post, a study of cell phone data from May 29 to May 31 suggests that just 9 percent of protesters came from outside the city. However, only 2.8 percent of this group were from outside the metro area. The 8,152 people tracked in this study comprise from 30 to 60 percent of all protesters in New York City, according to the Post’s write-up.
James asked Shea how many officers were being disciplined based on their alleged conduct during protests. We didn’t get a clear answer. Shea said “There have been multiple” and that the NYPD has been “taking unprecedented steps” with transparency and the speed of investigations. Shea said he didn’t want to give an exact number and be off. Shea said he believed “it’s less than 10, it’s in that ballpark.”
Remember that video of a cop waving his gun around during protests? “There is absolutely no discipline in that case,” Shea said, saying that he believed the cop’s partner or superior was hit with a bottle. James asked if Shea thought that was appropriate, to which he replied, “You had a long period of time where literally everything but the kitchen sink was being thrown at officers…” The officer who was hit, Shea said, “is still injured at home.”
As for the officer who made a hand gesture that seemed to evoke a white nationalist sign, Shea said it was a topic for another conversation and “I don’t think you have the whole story on that.” James also asked about the two NYPD vehicles that drove into a crowd of protesters. “What would you do when you are set upon and your life is in danger?” Shea said. “And I think that description of running over peaceful protesters, I don’t think that’s being fair.” (That incident is under investigation.)
Regarding allegations of excessive force, the NYPD previously sent out press releases on several incidents. Per the department:
On June 1, in Manhattan, a probationary officer sprayed mace at a group of bystanders. According to the NYPD, internal affairs conducted an investigation; this officer was suspended without pay, and “this case has been referred to the Department Advocate for disciplinary action.”
On May 30, a police officer was seen pulling down a man’s mask and spraying him with pepper spray. Internal Affairs investigated, the officer is suspended sans pay, and it’s gone to the Department Advocate.
On May 29, an officer was recorded on video shoving a woman to the ground. Internal Affairs investigated; he’s suspended without pay. A supervisor who was there will be transferred. This was sent to the Department Advocate for disciplinary action. The officer was also charged with assault, the NYPD said.
Also on May 29, the door of an unmarked cop car was opened on a Brooklyn street, hitting a protester. Internal Affairs investigated and the officer is on modified duty. Again, per the NYPD, it’s heading to the Department Advocate.
That’s it for now. Allegedly will return when we can!