NY police union head rails against legislators, media for 'vilifying' law enforcement

The New York Police Benevolent Association (PBA) railed Tuesday against state legislators and the press for “vilifying” law enforcement officers amid the nationwide demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. 

The New York PBA's president, Mike O’Meara, said at a press conference that officers have 375 million interactions with individuals each year and that most of them are “overwhelmingly positive.” 

"But what we read in the papers all week is that in the black community, mothers are worried about their children getting home from school without being killed by a cop. What world are we living in? That doesn’t happen," O'Meara said. 

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“Our legislators are failing us. Our press is vilifying us,” he added. “Stop treating us like animals and thugs and start treating us with some respect. That’s what we’re here today to say. We’ve been vilified. It’s disgusting.”

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has faced heightened scrutiny in recent days over its handling of protests, including criticism of one video showing two police cruisers lurching through protesters and another showing an officer pushing a woman to the ground, an incident that is under internal review.

The Buffalo Police Department has also faced criticism over a graphic video shot by a WBFO journalist that shows a 75-year-old man slowly approaching a group of police officers until one of them tells him to move away and then pushes him to the ground, where he lies bleeding as officers walk away.

O’Meara said he condemns the acts of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. 

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“I am not Derek Chauvin. They are not him. He killed someone, we didn’t. We are restrained,” O’Meara said. “We roundly reject what he did as disgusting. It’s not what we do.”

The protest slogan “I can’t breathe,” which were some of Floyd’s last words, was originally coined after the death of Eric Garner, who died of asphyxiation at the hands of a NYPD officer in 2014.

The slogan has been used at demonstrations protesting Floyd’s death and police brutality, including among activists who have pressured lawmakers to defund police departments. 

New York Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Overnight Health Care: Fauci says family has faced threats | Moderna to charge to a dose for its vaccine | NYC adding checkpoints to enforce quarantine New York City adding 'key entry point' checkpoints to enforce quarantine MORE (D) on Sunday pledged to cut funding for the NYPD and reallocate it to youth and social services after facing mounting pressure from demonstrators. 

Some New York lawmakers have redirected campaign donations from the New York PBA to bail funds in an effort to dissociate themselves from law enforcement organizations.

House Democrats, meanwhile, have proposed sweeping reform legislation that would, among other things, repeal the qualified immunity doctrine, which protects police officers from lawsuits. Republicans are working on their own police reform bill as well.

“Everybody’s trying to shame us — legislators, the press. Everybody’s trying to shame us into being embarrassed about our profession. You know what? This isn’t stained by someone in Minneapolis,” O’Meara said, holding his badge up and gesturing to the officers standing behind him. “It’s still got a shine on it, and so do theirs.”