The New York Police Department (NYPD) commissioner on Monday defended the officers who drove into anti-policy brutality protesters late last month, saying they did not violate the department’s use-of-force policy.
Commissioner Dermot Shea testified in an online public hearing on the police response to the George Floyd protests, saying the officers shown in videos to be lurching into a crowd were complying with department standards.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who is investigating the police response, asked the commissioner about videos from May 30 that showed two police cruisers driving into a crowd in Brooklyn.
“Was that in violation of your use of force policy?” she asked.
“No,” Shea answered, adding, “Our internal affairs bureau investigated this information and preliminarily we have an accounting of that incident where we have officers in a situation where they’re essentially being penned in by protesters.”
James then asked, “So in that particular instance, is it your testimony that … the police car was an appropriate use of force?”
“I’m not saying that the police car was used as a use of force,” he added. “The officers were set upon and attacked, and thankfully they were able to get out of that situation with, to my knowledge, no injuries to anyone.”
Before his response, the commissioner acknowledged that he didn’t want to interfere in investigations of the incident, including James’s and the city’s Department of Investigations.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) requested James investigate the NYPD’s treatment of protesters after videos circulated showing alleged mistreatment. Protesters alleged last week in testimony that officers kicked and shoved them, hit them with night sticks, shot pepper spray at them and cuffed wrists so tight they turned blue.
Shea testified Monday that the protests turned into “some of the worst rioting that occurred in our city in recent memory,” citing incidents of demonstrators throwing bottles and trash cans at officers. He said more than 300 officers were injured in the protests since late May, but it is unknown which injuries were caused by demonstrators.
“No one will come out and support the police right now because they are scared because they will get shouted down,” Shea said. “And I think that’s really sad.”
The commissioner also vowed that officers who violated NYPD policy would be punished, adding that fewer than 10 officers are being disciplined for the protests.
Protests over Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police have broken out across the country, with several becoming violent.
Floyd died after a now-former officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, as shown in a bystander video that went viral.