New York, NY – The New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association (SBA) has announced a plan to pay Good Samaritans who step up and assist police officers during violent or difficult arrests.
The union announced the “Help a Cop” incentive program during a press conference on Wednesday morning, WNBC reported.
“When you see an officer struggling, rather than take your cellphone out, assist the officer and you’ll receive an award of $500,” SBA president Ed Mullins told the New York Post.
“Far too often, we see police officers engaged in violent struggles with perpetrators while members of the public stand by and take videos of the incident,” Mullins explained. “This has got to stop, and hopefully this program will incentivize Good Samaritans to do the right thing.”
Mullins said that the program was created with the goal of helping struggling police officers, not to promote the idea of citizens taking the law into their own hands.
"It's not a program of vigilantism, it's not against community imbalance and it's certainly not against people taking photos...people have the right to take photos of police," Mullins explained, according to WNBC.
The SBA is working with State Senator Martin Golden to develop legislation to help shield citizens from liability when they aid police.
“The current Good Samaritan law does not protect citizens who assist first responders,” Golden told the New York Post. “It is my intent to introduce legislation in the Senate that corrects this shortcoming.”
Mullins said that the funds for the incentive program will come from the union, but that they hope private individuals and pro-police groups will make contributions as well.
Whether or not a citizen’s assistance warrants reward will be determined by a panel of experts, he said.
But the New York Police Department (NYPD) didn’t seem to be on board with the SBA’s idea.
“The NYPD encourages people to support their cops by calling 911,” an agency spokesperson told the New York Post. “The department doesn’t want to see people put in harm’s way unnecessarily to collect a reward.”
Social justice group El Grito De Sunset Park also blasted the program.
“In the era of Trump and the Alt-Right, incentivizing the public with $500 to ‘assist’ an officer with an arrest, only encourages vigilantism and continues to promote lawlessness within an already unaccountable police department,” the group complained, according to the New York Post.
Mullins said he believed the Help a Cop incentive program had the potential to help citizens take responsibility for their own communities.
“The people of the City of New York are hearing about community policing,” he said. “It’s time for the people of the City of New York to get involved, and respond back, where we help police officers.”