NEW YORK (AP) — Cellphone videos of people brazenly dousing uniformed New York Police Department patrolmen with water have sparked outrage and led police officials to urge the force not to tolerate the behavior.
Police on Tuesday were looking into two recent instances captured on video clips widely circulated on social media that show four on-duty officers — all sent to break up unruly gatherings around open fire hydrants during a recent heat wave — getting soaked themselves as onlookers jeer.
In one of the videos, an officer making an arrest of a suspect in Harlem appears to get hit in the head with a red plastic bucket as he and his partner are splashed with water. The other shows two officers getting repeatedly doused as they walk down a Brooklyn street looking sheepish as a woman's voice in the background is heard saying, "Oh, they violated them."
At a police event Tuesday, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said the department wants to make arrests in both cases but drew a sharp distinction between them. He described one as a potential assault on an officer doing his duty and the other a failure of officers to respond to a clear provocation.
In Brooklyn, "Someone thought it was all right and take a bucket of water and toss it over a cop's head," Monahan said. "That's not all right. . 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."
The appearance that the pranksters on both videos showed little fear of reprisal fueled accusations against Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and other liberal politicians that their police reform policies have fostered a climate of disrespect for officers on the beat.
"Our anti-cop lawmakers have gotten their wish: the NYPD is now frozen," Patrick Lynch, the union president for the powerful Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement. "Disorder controls the streets, and our elected leaders refuse to allow us to take them back."
Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said there's worry that the liquids in the buckets "could just as easily have been bleach, gasoline, or some other toxic substance."
Rudolph Giuliani, a lawyer for President Trump and former mayor of New York, also chimed in, telling Fox News that the dousings wouldn't have happened "if we didn't have a completely lazy mayor." The morale of the officers who were involved, he added, "has been destroyed."
The outcry comes at a time when de Blasio is already under fire from critics blasting him for delaying firing of the police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner and claiming he has neglected the city while he runs for president.
Asked about the dousings in an interview Monday with local news channel NY1, de Blasio responded that "they are two very different incidents, one of which was not confrontational, the other of which was. And I'll just state the obvious - it's not acceptable for anyone to resist arrest, it's not acceptable for anyone to interfere with the NYPD when they're effectuating an arrest."
The NYPD has circulated a memo throughout the nation's largest police department this week explaining that while verbal taunting doesn't break the law, someone can be charged with harassment, disorderly conduct or other crimes "where an individual intentionally sprays or douses a member of service with water while performing their duties."