Surge in NYC shootings fuels police reform debate

Protesters and police in Brooklyn on 17 June 2020 (AFP Photo/Angela Weiss)
Protesters and police in Brooklyn on 17 June 2020 (AFP Photo/Angela Weiss)

New York (AFP) - New York reeled from a spate of holiday weekend shootings Monday, with police fueling controversy by partially attributing them to reforms undertaken following the death in custody of George Floyd.

The Big Apple was rocked by 45 shootings -- which resulted in 11 deaths -- over the long July 4th weekend, up from just 16 shootings for the same period in 2019.

Terence Monahan, the NYPD's highest-ranking uniformed officer, said "tremendous animosity" shown towards officers following the recent Black Lives Matter protests had contributed by lowering police morale.

Shootings soared 130 percent in June compared to the same period last year, NYPD statistics show, with Monahan also saying early release of prisoners due to coronavirus put more violent offenders on the streets.

Monahan also denounced a new law that bars New York police officers from keeping a suspect on the ground by pressing on his chest.

Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in Minneapolis on May 25 when a white police officer knelt on his knee for almost nine minutes as Floyd complained he couldn't breathe.

Weeks of protests in which demonstrators called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to "defund police" saw him cut their annual budget by $1 billion, although activists say the cuts are not meaningful.

The uptick in shootings will likely further fuel tensions between police departments and Democratic leaders making police cuts in major cities such as New York, Chicago and Seattle.

President Donald Trump has tried to make political capital out of the police reforms. In a tweet Monday, he accused the Democratic mayors of New York and Chicago of protecting criminals.

New York was once one of America's most violent cities but crime has been steadily decreasing since the 1990s.