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Brooklyn protester to AG James: Where are the good cops?

June 18, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Attorney General Letitia James’ Wednesday public hearing on police and public interactions during recent protests drew so much attention that she had to extend it an additional day into Thursday.

After being designated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate interactions between police and the public during protests, Attorney General James hosted the meeting to solicit testimony from protesters, elected officials, other experts and community organizations to get a better firsthand account of what has taken place.

One of the most poignant moments took place when a local protester, Dounya Zayer, testified about an incident where she was shoved to the ground by an unprovoked police officer.

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Dounya Zayer testified on Wednesday about an incident involving Vincent D’Andraia, a cop who was suspended after a video of him violently shoving Zayer to the ground in an unprovoked attack went viral.

After Zayer testified about the incident that led to the suspension of NYPD officer Vincent D’Andraia, the attorney general thanked her and reminded her that Officer D’Andraia did not represent all police officers and assured her that there are plenty of good cops, James was cut off by an emotional Zayer.

“What about the officers that witnessed the assault and did nothing?” Zayer demanded. “Because there were dozens of officers. That was normal for them.”

Zayer pointed out that even though D’Andraia has been suspended, he has not been fired. She also noted that his commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman, seen in viral videos walking directly behind D’Andraia, but offering no help, was not punished at all and only transferred to a different precinct.

“Where are the good cops that I keep hearing of?” Zayer asked. “Thank you for your sympathy, but I don’t want to hear that there are good cops when not a single good cop helped me.”

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez was one of the elected officials to testify on Wednesday. She said that she is proposing legislation that will keep local police departments from receiving “weapons of war” from the military.

Zayer said that eventually a member of the FDNY came to help her. She was eventually taken to the hospital after suffering a concussion and seizure, she said.

Attorney General James was joined at the hearing by Loretta Lynch, the former U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and by Barry Friedman, an NYU professor and director of the Policing Project.

The three took turns asking follow up questions of the people who testified on Wednesday. Many of their questions regarded the effectiveness of the curfew that was instituted by Mayor Bill de Blasio, attacks against legal observers and press during the protests, police officers covering their badges so they couldn’t be identified, and specific incidents of police brutality.

Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General during the Obama Administration, took part in the hearings on Wednesday.

Among the politicians to testify on Wednesday were Congressmember Nydia Velazquez and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Velazquez spoke out about the 1033 Program, which allows the U.S. military to donate weapons and other equipment to local police departments. She has proposed legislation to end the program, which was curtailed under President Obama, but expanded under President Trump.

“When police are armed like an occupying army they act like one,” Velazquez said. She went on to add that weapons that have been donated to the police force, such as grenade launchers, are not needed by the NYPD.

“[Weapons of war] have no place in cities like New York or any part of our country. We are not at war,” she said.

Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law and Affiliated Professor of Politics at NYU.

Friedman pointed out to Velazquez that police departments receive weapons donations from the military through other programs as well, and suggested that she look into those to include in her legislation as well.

During his testimony, Public Advocate Williams called recent reforms by Gov. Andrew Cuomo “low-hanging fruit” that should have been taken care of years ago. He emphasized that the discussion should be about defunding the NYPD, and explained that didn’t mean entirely doing away with it, but merely shifting resources away from the police and towards housing, education, jobs and health care.

“It’s not just policing,” Williams said. “It’s so many other things. The Black mortality rate is higher than everyone else. For too long there has been a tremendous resource imbalance.”

The hearing will resume on Thursday at 11 a.m. People can watch via the attorney general’s website at ag.ny.gov/livestream. Members of the public can submit testimony by going to ag.ny.gov/nypd-protest-response.


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