'Improper' NYPD actions under investigation, mayor calls for repeal of police records protection

The NYPD is investigating videos appearing to show officer misconduct during protests and riots

Kristin F. Dalton
Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — As day turned to night over the last several days, peaceful protestors largely left the streets of New York City, leaving behind those who rioted and looted into the early morning hours in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The New York protests are among hundreds that took place around the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis last Monday. Derek Chauvin, the officer involved in the incident — who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes — has since been fired, and charged in Floyd’s killing.

Several protests on Staten Island over the weekend remained peaceful.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said violent and destructive behavior will not be tolerated and will be addressed “very aggressively."

Improper actions by the NYPD will also be addressed very aggressively, de Blasio said, speaking to several controversial videos that surfaced over the weekend, which captured police responses to protests.

Video footage showed an NYPD officer forcefully shoving a woman to the ground and a police officer pulling his service weapon in a crowded intersection.

Other videos showed two police vehicles driving into a crowd, knocking people down, and an officer opening his police cruiser door into a protestor as the vehicle drove down the street.

All of these instances are under investigation, he said, calling the videos “troubling.”

“Discipline must be given out where it is merited; all are under review,” de Blasio said during a press conference Monday, adding that discipline could include being removed from the NYPD.

The mayor said there is no situation where driving a police car into a group of people is acceptable, even if there were extenuating circumstances. Initially, he said the police vehicle was surrounded by violent protestors.

Speaking to the video of the NYPD officer drawing his gun, he said, “It’s not the place of an officer to pull a gun knowing there are peaceful protestors. That officer should have his gun and badge taken away.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea joined the mayor during Monday’s press conference, however, Shea did not speak to any of the videos. Shea also said the protests were “overwhelmingly peaceful” and that there were a handful of dangerous incidents but there was no loss of life.

A state law, 50-a, safeguards police personnel records from the public, as well as disciplinary hearing records.

More specifically, Civil Rights Law 50-a blocks the release of “all personnel records used to evaluate performance” of police officers without the written permission of the officer, or without a judge’s order.

De Blasio said Monday the law needs to be repealed and it’s something that can be done by the state legislature.

“Let’s do that in the month of June,” de Blasio said, adding that it’s something that the legislature can and should do.

Advocates for repealing 50-a believe increased transparency in police discipline will foster more accountability for improper police action. De Blasio has talked publicly about his support for the law’s repeal for more than two years.

However, the mayor said NYPD officers should still have their personal information, like certain aspects of their lives as well as their home addresses, protected from the public.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would “sign a bill today that repeals 50-a.”

“I would sign it today. So the Legislature can now convene by Zoom, or however they do it, pass the bill, and I will sign it today. I can’t be clearer or more direct than that," Cuomo has said.

The governor said he thinks that elected officials in New York could release disciplinary records, even with the law, “if they wanted to.”

De Blasio also said there needs to be a faster NYPD disciplinary process and that it must be transparent.

“There needs to be an immediate investigation and consequences. It always takes too long and it makes people angry,” he said. “Any officer who should not be wearing the uniform needs to get off the force.

“People have every right to demand change,” he said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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