A top New York police union official on Tuesday defended officers in the state and said news media and elected officials had “vilified” officers over how they have handled protesters calling for an end to police brutality.
Protesters have clashed with police in several cities following marches in the past two weeks over the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd’s death was caught on video showing a white officer kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said “I can’t breathe.”
The officer Derek Chauvin was fired from the police force and has been charged with second- and third-degree murder.
“Stop treating us like animals and thugs and start treating us with some respect,” Mike O’Meara, the president of the state’s association of police unions told reporters in front of officers gathered for a news conference on Tuesday.
“I am not Derek Chauvin. They are not him. He killed someone, we didn’t,” O’Meara said, adding while holding his badge aloft, “this isn’t stained.”
“We roundly reject what he did as disgusting. It’s disgusting. It’s not what we do. It’s not what police officers do.”
O’Meara criticized the media for not reporting on recent deaths of police officers, and he expressed surprise that “in the black community, mothers are worried about their children getting home from school without being killed by a cop.”
“What world are we living in? That doesn’t happen. It does not happen,” he said.
New York lawmakers voted on Tuesday to repeal a decades-old law that shields police officers’ disciplinary records from the public. Advocates for police accountability have long been pushing for the repeal of the contentious section of New York’s Civil Rights Law, 50-a, that prevented disclosure to the public of disciplinary records of police officers.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted that he will sign the bill into law this week.
On Monday, the legislature voted to ban the use by police of chokeholds. The practice had come under intense condemnation when an African-American man, Eric Garner, died after a white New York City police officer used a chokehold on him during a 2014 arrest.