Albany, NY – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took a cheap shot at New York Police Department (NYPD) officers on Monday when he said their response to water attacks made them appear “impotent” at the same time that he has called for Officer Daniel Pantaleo to be fired.
NYPD officers have been seen on viral videos walking away from citizens who dumped and threw buckets of water at them rather than making arrests at the time they’re doused.
“The video of the cops getting doused with water and walking away was one of the most disturbing and embarrassing actions I’ve seen,” Cuomo told WAMC during a roundtable discussion on Monday.
“I don’t blame those officers – they were relatively new. I look to the training and the policies of the police department that would have instructed them to act that way,” the governor added.
Cuomo cast doubt on the ability of NYPD officers to protect the citizens if they couldn’t protect themselves.
“If a police officer is being assaulted, the police officer has to do something,” he said. “Because, by the way, if the police officer isn’t willing to defend himself or herself, how are they going to defend me? The training is off. It’s off!”
The governor pointed the finger at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio during his interview with WAMC.
“That is wholly unacceptable,” Cuomo ranted. “Forget the old days, law enforcement has to be respected. And when they show up they have to be respected. And the NYPD training – yes, sensitivity to the community needs, etc. - but I don’t know how we’re training police officers. How when you are basically assaulted – and that’s an assault - you retreat? You will make law enforcement impotent and that will hurt everybody.”
“You know the community needs law enforcement to be effective and to be respected, so it’s a two-way street,” the governor continued.
“The training has to be, you don’t turn around and get back in the car and drive away,” Cuomo said. “You literally make law enforcement ineffective and impotent and that hurts everyone.”
“You’re assaulted, you take the perpetrator into custody,” he said.
While the governor stopped short of saying de Blasio had done a bad job with the NYPD, he did make a comparison with the New York State Police.
“But I can tell you this, if that ever happened to the state police, I would bet ya my bottom dollar that you would not see state police officers assaulted and they turn around and get back in the car,” Cuomo told WAMC.
It's not clear how Cuomo would have felt if the water suspects resisted arrest and force needed to be used to take them into custody, which is what happened during the arrest of Eric Garner.
Even as he was criticizing NYPD officers for inaction in the water attacks, he called for Officer Pantaleo to be fired for the arrest of Eric Garner and put responsibility for handling both matters squarely at the feet of de Blasio.
“The police department works with the mayor. The mayor is responsible. And we’ll see what he does on both these matters. But I think both situations require his intervention and action,” the governor said.
On Aug. 2, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado issued a non-binding verdict that said Officer Pantaleo was guilty of using a chokehold on Eric Garner and recommended the officer be fired.
NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill will make the ultimate determination about the fate of the officer’s employment, but in the meantime, Officer Pantaleo was suspended, which is customary when a city employee has received a recommendation for termination.
The officer has been on desk duty since the incident occurred five years ago.
Garner was arrested by NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, after police stopped him for selling individual, untaxed loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk.
He resisted arrest and fought with officers who struggled to take the 350-pound man into custody.
In the process of subduing Garner, video taken by witnesses showed that Officer Pantaleo had his arm around Garner's neck and pressed his face against the sidewalk.
Garner repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter in the months that followed.
Officer Pantaleo later said he tried to use a “seatbelt maneuver” on Garner, and did not mean to put the much larger man into a choke hold.
Garner lost consciousness on the sidewalk, and died in the hospital an hour later from a medical emergency.
The autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him. The medical examiner declared it was a homicide.
A New York Grand Jury declined to indict on any criminal charges.
The federal inquiry dragged on for five years until the U.S. attorney said federal prosecutors would not be filing charges because “the evidence does not support charging Police Officer Pantaleo with a federal civil rights violation.”
He also said federal prosecutors could not prove that the officer “willfully used excessive force to violate Mr. Garner’s rights as required under the law,” The New York Times reported.
Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch warned of the impact on the entire police force if Commissioner O’Neill took the administrative judge’s recommendation to fire Officer Pantaleo.
"This decision is pure political insanity. If it is allowed to stand, it will paralyze the NYPD for years to come," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement when the verdict was announced.
After hearing Cuomo’s remarks about the water attacks, the union boss weighed in, the New York Post reported.
“Gov. Cuomo is right: the NYPD is frozen, but don’t blame the cops. Instead, blame the complete lack of leadership from City Hall,” Lynch said.
But despite what he said about bad training making the NYPD “impotent,” the governor still thinks Officer Pantaleo should be fired.
“We have a judge who said the officer in the Eric Garner case should be fired. In our society we say we follow the judge’s orders and I think that’s appropriate,” Cuomo said on Saturday, the New York Post reported. “When a judge says an officer should be fired because they did something wrong, I believe the officer should be fired.”
He told WAMC that he has no authority to do anything about the mayor or his decisions in either situation.
“But I do think the mayor should act,” the governor said. “The police commissioner works for the mayor. The Eric Garner matter has gone on for five years. Justice delayed is justice denied.”