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'You're the cause': NYPD unions blame 'anti-cop' politicians for water dousing incidents

This screenshot of a video uploaded by Twitter used @NYScanner shows police officers in Harlem being doused with water as they make an arrest. (Image: WCBS via CNN Newsource)
This screenshot of a video uploaded by Twitter used @NYScanner shows police officers in Harlem being doused with water as they make an arrest. (Image: WCBS via CNN Newsource)
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Viral videos showing New York City Police Department officers being doused with buckets of water have prompted an outcry from law enforcement warning that an anti-cop political climate is putting officer safety and public safety at risk.

Rank and file officers expressed a sense of betrayal by local political leaders, particularly the mayor of New York, who professed support for the NYPD after the videos came to light. The largest police officers union in New York City said the attacks are the result of officers' hands being tied by elected officials who refuse to let them enforce the law. The city's union of police sergeants accused political leaders of habitually turning their backs on the police.

This week, at least four separate incidents of individuals throwing water at on-duty police officers came to light. Video of the first incident surfaced on Monday and showed two police officers making an arrest in Harlem. They had several buckets of water thrown at them and one individual hurled an empty bucket at an officer's head.

Another video surfaced shortly after showing two uniformed officers walking away from a scene in Brownsville, Brooklyn as several young men drenched them with buckets of water. Onlookers laughed and jeered at the officers.

On Wednesday, a video was posted showing about a dozen young men and women carrying buckets of water, water bottles and squirt guns gathering around two female police officers in the Bronx. The two officers were seen running a few paces away from two men who hurled buckets of water at them.

Another video recorded in Harlem was posted showing several children throwing water at an officer and spraying him with squirt guns.

In each case, the officers did not engage the individuals.

Two men were arrested in association with the incident in Harlem were charged with harassment, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief. Another suspect, a gang member with a history of 20 arrests, surrendered to police in Brooklyn. He was charged with obstructing governmental administration, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, harassment and criminal tampering for damaging an officer's equipment.

The viral videos caught the attention of the White House. President Donald Trump condemned New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. "We love our Law Enforcement Officers all around this great Country," Trump tweeted. "What took place was completely unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. Bill de Blasio should act immediately!"

In a Wednesday interview on "America This Week," the president's attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani laid the blame at the feet of the current mayor, Bill de Blasio calling him "a disgrace" for attacking police with his past statements and policies. He further warned that the phenomenon "looks like it might be going a little bit viral among the anti-police, Antifa-type progressives."

Former Republican New York Governor George Pataki also blamed political leaders, tweeting the incidents are "the inevitable result when too many politicians scapegoat police."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is currently running for president, issued a statement almost immediately after the videos surfaced. He thanked the NYPD for their "speed and professionalism," tweeting, "We stand with them today and always."

The Police Benevolent Association (PBA), the largest police union in New York City, hit back at de Blasio saying, "You are the cause of attacks on the NYPD."

The mayor has had a tense relationship with the city's law enforcement since running on a platform that critics say stoked anti-police sentiment. During his first year in office, de Blasio was largely seen as siding with protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement over the NYPD in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man who was killed when an officer put him in a chokehold. Following the incident that triggered nationwide protests, de Blasio ordered the police force to undergo retraining, stating at the time, "The way we go about policing has to change."

When a gunman seeking revenge for Garner's death fatally shot two NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in December 2014, police dramatically turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio when he spoke at the officers' funeral.

Patrick Lynch, president of the New York PBA, argued that the recent water bucket assaults were fueled by years of "anti-police rhetoric."

"Our anti-cop lawmakers have gotten their wish: the NYPD is now frozen," Lynch wrote in a press release. "We are approaching the point of no return. Disorder controls the streets, and our elected leaders refuse to allow us to take them back. As police officers, we need to draw a line. In situations like this, we need to take action to protect ourselves and the public."

Bill Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, concurred with Lynch and the local police leadership. "Whether it's Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio, their consistent drumbeat of distrust of the police—that the police are violent or racist or don't deserve to be respected and so on—absolutely helps engender this type of attack."

One of the questions raised by the videos is why the officers didn't take action or respond to the provocations.

NYPD leadership issued a memo making clear that officers "are not expected to tolerate" such conduct and outlined recommended charges against individuals who douse or spray on-duty officers.

Chief Terence Monahan issued a public warning that the behavior seen in the viral videos would not be tolerated and individuals would be arrested. At the same time, he chastised the officers who walked away rather than confront their harassers. "That's not all right," he said at a press conference this week. "Any cop who thinks that's all right, that they can walk away from something like that, maybe should consider whether or not that this is the profession for them."

Sgt. Ed Mullins, the head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, disagreed with Monahan's statement, saying the officers didn't engage because "they don't have the backing of the NYPD."

"We’ve been painted with a lot of negativity over the past four or five years," Mullins said in an interview on a local radio program. He continued that political leaders repeatedly left officers "out to dry" in controversial cases involving alleged excessive use of force, including Officer Daniel Pantaleo's use of a banned chokehold on Eric Garner and Sgt. Hugh Barry who was indicted and later acquitted in the fatal shooting a mentally disabled woman who was swinging a baseball bat at him.

Mullins further questioned what message the video is sending to the public. "If we can't defend ourselves, do you really believe we're there to defend you?"

On Tuesday, the New York City Police Benevolent Association issued a statement demanding stronger laws and "meaningful penalties" for anyone who harasses or interferes with a police officer's official duties. The organization also recommended felony charges for assaulting an officer by throwing or spraying water or any other substance.

Advocates of officer safety warned that the incidents involving water could quickly escalate, that the next time the buckets could contain acid, bleach, chemicals or concrete.

"This is how cops get killed," warned Joseph Imperatrice, an NYPD sergeant and founder of Blue Lives Matter NYC in a Fox News interview earlier this week.

Police officers have come under increased public scrutiny in recent years as cell phone videos and body cameras have exposed disturbing incidents often involving law enforcement and the excessive use of force against black men and women. The bad actions of some officers have typically attracted more attention than the risks officers face in the line of duty.

This year, 24 officers were fatally shot in the line of duty, according to FBI data. That number is down from 2018, but according to the FBI Director Christopher Wray, it still represents a serious challenge. "The level of violence against law enforcement in this country doesn't get a whole lot of national coverage," he said at a Senate hearing earlier this week, "and I worry often that Americans don't realize the extent of the problem."

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Police officers and first responders are also at a higher risk of suicide than the general population and are five times more likely to suffer from PTSD and depression.

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