Several incidents caught on video showing NYPD officers during recent demonstrations — including one showing an officer who apparently drew his gun amid protesters, a police vehicle moving into a crowd and an officer pushing a woman — are under investigation, according to the mayor of New York.
The investigation comes as police and community relations are at a flash point across the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd while under arrest in Minneapolis. It was a spark that kicked off protests across the United States, many devolving into confrontations with police, damage to property, fires, looting and arrests.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that the New York police officer who appeared to draw his weapon on a crowd “should have his gun and badge taken away from him today.” An investigation is being done “immediately” and will determine larger consequences.
“It is not the place of an officer to pull a gun in the middle of a crowd knowing there are peaceful protesters in that crowd,” he said. “That is unacceptable, that is dangerous.”
The video the mayor referenced was obtained by the Gothamist. CNN has reached out to the New York Police Department for comment.
The mayor has set up an independent review by the corporation counsel and Department of Investigation commissioner. The police department is also investigating incidents internally.
Actions of police have also drawn attention from the New York governor in recent days. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday he ordered the New York attorney general to review police conduct, procedure and the actions of the crowd amid the weekend demonstrations and deliver a report within 30 days.
Attorney General Letitia James tweeted Monday that she promises a “swift investigation with all of the facts,” and she encouraged the public to share any information or visuals with her office.
Cuomo said Monday he believes some of the actions of the NYPD have exacerbated the anger.
“There are videos of NYPD cars driving into a crowd that are very disturbing, pulling a mask down off a person to pepper spray them, throwing a woman to the ground. It’s on video,” he said.
The president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, a police union, said Cuomo is wrongly blaming police.
“He is the Governor of New York State. He cannot prejudge an incident on live TV and then claim that there will be due process for that police officer,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement.
Referencing the burning and the looting in the city, he said, “Neither he nor any other elected official has a plan to stop it, other than wrongly blaming the chaos on the cops. At a time when we need leadership the most, police officers know we are completely alone.”
Video taken Saturday captured an NYPD vehicle facing a barrier blocking protesters as several items including trash and bottles were thrown at it. The vehicle then appears to drive into the crowd, knocking down the barrier and protesters behind it, as people scream.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea over the weekend said he does not like what he saw on the video, but looks at the situation “fairly.” What he saw was more akin to a “mob” than a protest, he added. “A protest does not involve surrounding and ambushing a marked police car and putting my officers and my detectives’ lives at risk.”
A law enforcement official describing the incident said protesters hurled a brick and water bottles and placed a flaming bag on top of the car in Brooklyn. It was when the officers noticed the bag was on fire and on top of the car that they hit the gas, the official said.
“This was an extremely abhorrent situation and there were extenuating circumstances I believe because of incidents that had happened earlier,” de Blasio said Monday. “It is still not acceptable for our officers to ever drive into a crowd.”
Cuomo said Monday that if he was just an average person “from Queens,” his hometown, “I would say it would be simple — that guy should be fired,” referencing the officer who drove into a crowd. “As governor,” he added, “there’s laws, there’s processes.”
City officials have acknowledged “horrible” and “vile” acts against police in recent days, with three protesters facing federal charges for alleged use of Molotov cocktails at a police vehicle.
The mayor Monday said the instances of police acting inappropriately are “rare.”
CNN previously reported an NYPD officer is being investigated for an “aggressive push” captured on camera during Friday night protests, according to a separate law enforcement official.
Bystander Mohammad Mufleh Odeh says he and other protesters were walking in Brooklyn and happened to be filming when they caught the officer push the woman. It’s unclear what happened between the officer and the woman before the incident was captured on camera.
While videos of police conduct are under investigation, others that surfaced struck a tone of solidarity between protesters and police.
Shea commented on images of NYPD officers kneeling with and hugging protesters Sunday during a march, tweeting, “We need more of this, to see and hear each other, to work together, to recognize that our differences are our strength.”
“This is how change begins,” Cuomo tweeted of the same event.
De Blasio, referencing that video, said Monday such acts and strides in community policing are “how we are going to overcome this moment, and move forward.”