Friday’s city Department of Investigation report on the NYPD’s performance in handling the chaotic Black Lives Matter protests this spring wasn’t the utter slam that headlines and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s video apology made it seem, but it’s still unrealistic and unfair.
In particular, the report’s focus on highly publicized incidents of excessive force ignores the context — rioting, looting and nearly 400 cops injured. That context doesn’t excuse individual overreactions, but the reality is that even protesters who intended to be peaceful were enabling those elements who sought out confrontations, as well as the organized looters who exploited the chaos.
Indeed, the report’s authors acknowledge that cops were by and large restrained and respectful of New Yorkers’ exercise of their First Amendment rights — even as protesters held signs calling them “pigs,” chanted “all cops are bastards” and deliberately tried to provoke a response.
The report sets an absurd standard: “When citizens view police officers using fair and respectful procedures, they are more likely to support and cooperate with the police, comply with their directives, and obey the law,” the report notes. That’s relevant to normal times, and even to normal protests. But these were far from normal, and not just because they flagrantly ignored public-health directives at the height of the pandemic.
With the department already stretched by both illness in its own ranks and the challenges of policing the lockdown, the demonstrations were larger and more passionate than normal protests, and aimed at the police themselves — even though the NYPD had nothing to do with what happened in Minneapolis.
Crucially, it soon became clear that Antifa provocateurs had embedded themselves among those marching in the name of justice. The Fordham Road shopping district in the Bronx was the scene of rioting and rampant looting after one nighttime BLM protest march. Other parts of the city were visited by similar scenes of looting, vandalism and anarchy.
Perhaps NYPD brass should have been more ready for the rioting, vandalism and looting. Yet the report actually slams the intelligence reports that warned of planned Antifa mayhem. Huh? Shouldn’t the out-of-town agitators bear the major blame for the “heightened tensions” that the report instead pins on the NYPD?
The NYPD continues to be a well-trained corps of officers who do a great job protecting the public. It’s now handling a year-long surge in shootings and other violence as well as the pandemic. It didn’t need this latest attack on cop morale.
Now more than ever, the men and women in blue deserve the support of New Yorkers.
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