New York City police personnel are feeling abandoned by public officials and the people they serve as anger builds over the department’s response to mass protests and calls to defund the department grow, the head of the detectives’ union told Fox News on Monday.
“They feel abandoned by everyone,” Paul DiGiacomo, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association in New York, said. “There is no one supporting the police, from the governor to the mayor to the DAs to the city council.”
Scrutiny of police departments nationwide has increased following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month. Protests have erupted in multiple cities over the past few weeks to call for criminal justice reform and greater accountability of police misconduct.
Some of the peaceful demonstrations initially devolved into widespread looting and rioting and police officers have been targeted with violence. Four officers were shot in St. Louis last week during a night of civil unrest in which a retired police captain was also killed. In New York, two officers were shot and another was stabbed during recent protests in the city.
Videos also have captured law enforcement officers in violent confrontations with demonstrators. Some NYPD officers were seen engaging in what critics have deemed excessive force, aggressively charging and pushing people around.
Two officers were suspended without pay Friday after videos showed one pepper-spraying a man after pulling down the man’s face mask and another showed an officer shoving a woman to the ground.
“Listen, when there is unrest and criminality out there, it never looks pretty,” said DiGiacomo, whose union has represented 19,000 active and retired detectives. “Resisting arrest never looks pretty. They never show you the whole video.
“I challenge any elected officials who think they could do a better job with urine being thrown at them, bottles, and being shot at,” he added.
Since the protests started two weeks ago, 720 complaints have been made against the NYPD, according to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the civilian body overseeing the police agency. As of Sunday, nearly 300 New York officers have been injured in the ongoing demonstrations, the NYPD said.
DiGiacomo also blamed local prosecutors for not pursuing suspects who assaulted detectives. The union was suing a Bronx man whom it accused of assaulting a detective during an arrest for the alleged looting of a CVS store in Manhattan.
“If you put your hands on a NYC detective, we will pursue the highest criminal charges possible, but the DAs don’t seem to want to, so we are going to pursue civil action,” he said.
Criminal justice advocates have called for defunding or abolishing police departments across the country in response to the fractured relationship between law enforcement and minority communities and several high-profile incidents in which unarmed black men have died or suffered injuries during interactions with police.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has come under fire for defending how his department has handled the ongoing protests. At the same time, he announced on Sunday a series of proposed police reforms, including shifting funding away from the NYPD toward social services.
In a Monday interview with Fox News, New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said taking resources away from his department wasn’t a practical solution.
“I think cooler heads need to sit around a table and find a way out of this,” he told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on “Your World.” “The usual thing I get hit at when I go to a community meeting is, ‘we want more cops.’ I think that is the general sentiment, but we are in a moment in time right now where we need all to come together.”
Defunding the country’s largest police department would make no sense, DiGiacomo said.
“The only people that will suffer will be the people of the city,” he added. “The NYPD is stopping crime and doing our job protecting people. Shootings are up. Homicides are up.”
State lawmakers on Monday were slated to act on several police-reform bills, including possibly repealing 50-A, a controversial measure that would allow departments to shield officer disciplinary records. Police unions across the country have pushed back on similar transparency measures.
Police unions have argued a repeal could allow the personal information of police personnel to be made public. DiGiacomo said opening up such records could hurt future criminal cases and that many complaints against officers were unsubstantiated.
“It’s going to paint cops as monsters,” he said. “There are a lot of complaints that are unsubstantiated and exonerated and they want to put that information out there even if they are not sure – that’s going to taint the justice system and a jury.”