New York, NY - Bratton: Onlookers Recording Police Actions Escalates Confrontations With Citizens
New York, NY - Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had harsh words yesterday for onlookers who film clashes between police and the public, saying bystanders often interfere in police business trying to intimidate officers, sometimes resorting to force to free prisoners.
Bratton’s words came Wednesday after a Manhattan conference between police chiefs and law enforcement executives as reported by the Daily News.
Bratton described the phenomenon as an epidemic and said that in many of the clips he has seen, onlookers are intentionally stirring up trouble.
“You do not have the right to resist arrest and in so many of those videos, people are resisting violently and being encouraged by the crowd,” observed Bratton, who noted that the problem is not exclusive to New York City.
Bratton’s remarks came after he was asked about a video that showed a Harlem police officer pointing his gun at a group of people filming him with cell phones while he was attempting to arrest a man for interfering with a traffic stop. A second video of the same encounter that took place on May 19th showed 26 year old Officer Risel Martinez punching one of those recording the scuffle. Martinez has been stripped of his gun and badge in connection with the incident.
In addition to the high profile Eric Garner case, where cell phone video sparked a maelstrom of outrage, several other similar situations have surfaced in recent weeks. Two months ago, Lieutenant Luis Machado, part of an NYPD elite conditions unit, was disciplined after he and a group of officers under his supervision engaged in a heated exchange with postal worker Glen Grays after their unmarked car nearly struck Grays’ truck. \
Grays was handcuffed, frisked and carted off to the station house as onlookers protested that Grays had done nothing wrong. In another incident that took place in February, surveillance video captured Officer Ruben Cuesta, fatally shooting a pit bull who walked up to him wagging its tail while he was responding to a domestic violence call in the Bronx.
Bratton acknowledged that incidents like these occur infrequently but said that the public often eggs police officers on, hoping to catch them reacting inappropriately. He is confident that a pilot program that will equip police with body cameras will provide a more accurate version of events.
Steve Cruz is a member of CopWatch Patrol which routinely films police interactions. he took umbrage at Bratton’s suggestion that onlookers deliberately incite violent clashes with police.
“We’re not mobs,” said Cruz. “We are just people recording these incidents.”
Blaming onlookers for poor behavior by police is a desperate attempt by Bratton to shift the spotlight away from his officers, observed Cruz.
“Bratton is upset that this incident was caught on video,” said Cruz. “It’s hard to come up with an excuse and he trashes cop-watchers like myself, but everyone can see the officer was wrong.”
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