After another day of unrest on the streets of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday morning tapped two City Hall insiders to lead a review of the New York Police Department’s conduct during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
De Blasio was forced to act by the quick spread of video via social media of NYPD officers taking aggressive steps with crowds that have gathered in spots across the five boroughs. Video of two NYPD police vans driving through a crowd in Brooklyn has sparked outrage and calls for disciplinary action. De Blasio vowed to pursue disciplinary action against officers found to have used excessive force. But he also defended the actions of police, even those who were in the vans that drove through barricades as a crowd gathered in front of them. He said those officers faced “incredibly difficult circumstances” under conditions that were not “normal peaceful protest.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, said he asked New York state Attorney General Letitia James to also review NYPD conduct during the protests. And he criticized de Blasio for initiating a probe led by City Hall officials rather than an independent arbiter. “Self-policing doesn’t work,” Cuomo said. He added during his regular coronavirus news conference on Sunday that the videos circulating in social media “are very, very disturbing.”
De Blasio tapped Department of Investigations commissioner Margaret Garnett and Jim Johnson, corporation counsel for the city, to review complaints and video evidence of aggressive police tactics during protests. The mayor said he expected them to work quickly and come back with “clear measures of accountability” by next month.
New York City had several hot spots on Saturday night in Manhattan, Queens and Brookly. Several police vehicles were vandalized and some were set on fire. But to date the city has largely avoided the looting that has rocked Minneapolis, Los Angeles and other urban centers during the past few nights since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after being held down on the street with a knee pressed against his neck for more than eight minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with manslaughter and fired from the force.
De Blasio said Sunday he had no plan to implement a curfew for New York City, as Los Angeles and other cities have as incidents of violence increased.
“This is a place with a strong traditional of peaceful protest and a strong tradition of the NYPD being able to manage peaceful protest,” he said.
De Blasio emphasized that city officials believes some of the violence was instigated deliberately by organized protest movements though he did not cite any specific groups. He said he’d been on the phone with other big city mayors to discuss the issue.
“It’s so obvious what’s happening here,” de Blasio said. He cited growing evidence of a “violent organized effort” by people who “in many times were not from the neighborhoods it was occurring in or not even from the same city.”
During de Blasio’s news conference Dermot Shea, New York City Police Commissioner, made a point of expressing his opinion that he has heard “universal condemnation” of the actions of the Minneapolis officers in the Floyd case from law enforcement officials that he’s conversed with in recent days.
Law enforcement pros are “just disgusted by it,” Shea said. “There is universal condemnation to what we saw in that video.”