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The NYPD has removed officers from city prosecutors’ offices after district attorneys refused to file charges against protesters who broke laws during protests following the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Friday denied that the pulling of officers was related to the DAs’ refusal to file charges, according to The New York Times.
However, the decision came only a few hours after the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced it would not pursue charges against demonstrators for curfew violations stemming from the protests.
“The justice system shouldn’t be the first resort,” DA Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, told the Times in a recent interview. “It should be used only when necessary, especially for low-level offenses, which tend to fall on men and women of color and those economically less resourced.”
Other ranking police officials were angered by Vance’s decision, which came amid similar decisions by district attorneys in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, the Times noted.
“It is a dereliction of duty to their oath of office,” said Edward Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, in an interview with the Times. “More important than undercutting the work of the NYPD, it is undercutting public safety.”
The paper noted further that Shea acknowledged reforms by the NYPD were taking place “maybe not as fast as some people like,” though he denied that the agency was warring with prosecutors around the city.
“Are we always in lockstep? No,” he said last week. “We’re human beings and from different agencies.”
The police commissioner noted further that he made the decision to remove the officers in order to put more cops on the streets during the city’s continuing protests.
However, as the Times noted, “to some in the prosecutors’ offices, the episode was emblematic of a growing divide between the police and most of the city’s district attorneys over how to address public outrage about racial disparities that pervade the criminal justice system.”
“We must take action against the use of excessive force by the police,” said a letter signed by four of the five NYC district attorneys.
“We will review every single one of those [protest arrests] to see whether or not these individuals should ever have to come to court or those cases should be declined…
[So far, we declined prosecution when] the arrest was simply for protesting and not for an act of violence.” https://t.co/bbsde67aGc
— DA Eric Gonzalez (@BrooklynDA) June 5, 2020
The Times noted further:
In a sense, the growing distance between the two pillars of local law enforcement reflects a political reality. Unlike police commanders and police union leaders, the prosecutors must stand for re-election in a city where public opinion has swung hard over the last month in the direction of reining in the police department and cutting its budget. But the decision to drop charges against some of the protesters is also part of a longer-running trend.
But, as some users pointed out on social media, refusing to prosecute actions that are currently against the law in the city is both a dereliction of duty that undermines the people’s elected representatives who passed those laws and could lead to violations of other statutes.
Although I agree we need to do something with all these police killing/brutality, @NYPDShea pulled NYPD officers from all DA Offices @ManhattanDA @BrooklynDA @QueensDAKatz @BronxDAClark What a predicament 💪🏽 I would’ve done the same 💯
— DL (@IncDn) June 16, 2020
Does “simply for protesting” include obstruction of justice or curfew violations which are basically the same things?
— Cynthia godsoe (@cynthia_godsoe) June 5, 2020
You stop charging fare evaders you unleash what you are now seeing.
— Pete Peters (@forpetessakeny) June 5, 2020
Why have laws at all , just let go shit to hell. Why have laws if no one following and get punished for braking them. Even better how about you all quit , we can safe taxpayers money, because you don’t do you job
you all start to get scary cats up there .
— Susanne (@Susanne02875943) June 16, 2020
“There are no more law-and-order district attorneys,” Joseph L. Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Times. “The pendulum has swung so far left.”
Vance, in fact, has made it clear he wants information about alleged police misconduct, which could range from actual improper acts to someone’s perception they’ve been wronged by an officer, which likely will clog up the system with inappropriate complaints about non-violations.
If you have evidence of police violence or misconduct occurring in Manhattan, please contact us below ⏬. You can also DM us or call us. 📞 212-335-8987. https://t.co/okDCLTp19A
— Cyrus Vance, Jr. (@ManhattanDA) June 10, 2020
“In Manhattan, employees in Mr. Vance’s office have been scouring social media for videos of police abuse,” the Times reported.
Meanwhile, Shea has announced he is disbanding the NYPD’s plainclothes anti-crime unit and that he’ll reassign the 600 officers belonging to the division.
“This is 21st-century policing,” he claimed. “This is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city. I think it’s time to move forward and change how we police in this city.”
Noting that disbanding the unit contains “risk” and that crime could spike, Shea said it is “squarely on my shoulders.”
“This is 21st-century policing.”
Commissioner Dermot Shea says “effective immediately,” the NYPD will disband its anti-crime unit and reassign roughly 600 plainclothes officers to other units pic.twitter.com/SuA6yyyEtf
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) June 15, 2020
The decision was met with immediate criticism including from former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
“#STUNNING! Plain clothes anti-crime cops have historically been responsible for the majority of gun and violent crime arrests in New York City. To avoid police/suspect confrontations, the department has disbanded the precinct and the crime teams. Dangerous times to come,” he wrote on Twitter.
#STUNNING! Plain clothes anti-crime cops have historically been responsible for the majority of gun and violent crime arrests in New York City. To avoid police/suspect confrontations, the department has disbanded the precinct and the crime teams. Dangerous times to come. https://t.co/tgNta7lpo3
— Bernard B. Kerik (@BernardKerik) June 15, 2020
“Anti-Crime’s mission was to protect New Yorkers by proactively preventing crime, especially gun violence,” noted NYPD union president Pat Lynch.
“Shooting and murders are both climbing steadily upward [because police have been pulled back], but our city leaders have clearly decided that proactive policing isn’t a priority anymore. They chose this strategy. They will have to reckon with the consequences,” Lynch said.
So, too, will average New Yorkers.
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