Albany, NY – New York’s Democratic Assembly Leader Carl Heastie does not support making it a felony for criminals to throw water on police officers responding to emergencies.
“Police officers should be respected, no one should be dousing them with water, particularly when they are in the midst of doing their jobs,” Heastie said, according to the New York Post.
“But I don’t know if always proposing new penalties and laws [is the answer]," he added. "I think on the positive end, we should continue to try and establish more of a community and police response. I think that’s more beneficial instead of always saying, ‘We are going to lock people up.’”
His comments were met with immediate backlash from his Republican colleagues in the state assembly.
“Now is the time for New Yorkers to stand with law enforcement and not turn our backs on them by ignoring the blatant disrespect by anarchists,” Republican New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis countered. “You can’t say you support the NYPD and then stop this bill from a vote. Now’s the time for Speaker Heastie to back up words with action.”
Two GOP assemblymen announced proposed legislation on July 31 that would make it a felony for anyone to dump liquid on a police officer.
The proposal comes in the wake of multiple water attacks on New York Police Department (NYPD) officers across the city.
The legislation is cosponsored by New York State Assemblymen Mike LiPetri and Michael Reilly, of Long Island and Staten Island, respectively, and makes it a Class E Felony punishable by up to one to four years in prison to assault a police officer with liquid, the Washington Examiner reported.
“I stand before you today as a former member of the NYPD, and now a representative of the state legislature,” Reilly told reporters. “I served in that uniform. I was a police officer, I was a sergeant, and I was a lieutenant. And I can tell you without a doubt that these men and women who step out there to protect our cities do it because they care.”
“I understand the burden that lays upon their shoulders each time they strap on that vest, each time they put on that gun belt, and they proudly pin that shield to their shirt. It’s uncalled for, this behavior that actually demoralizes our communities,” the former police officer continued.
He called on the Democrats in City Hall and Albany, as well as New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio to stand up for law enforcement.
State Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar said Heastie was sending the wrong message by dismissing the proposal to make water attacks on officers a felony, the New York Post reported.
“There’s a ramping up of attacks against law enforcement across the country,” Kassar said.
He highlighted the “disconnect” between Democratic leadership’s goal of “wanting to enforce fewer and fewer laws” and police “who want keep communities livable and safe,” the New York Post reported.
“Democratic members of the Assembly think the police are not in sync with minority communities. That perception is just wrong.” Kassar said.
On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was embarrassed by NYPD officers’ responses to the water attacks.
“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.”
The governor criticized New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and compared the NYPD response to the water attacks to what he thought his state police would have done in the same situation.
“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,” he told WAMC.
Cuomo stopped short, however, of endorsing legislation to make water attacks on officers a felony.