NAMING NAMES: Search for NYPD Insurrectionists Gets Off to a Weak Start

Some finger pointing — but no personal responsibility — for participation in the Capitol attack emerges in the Empire State.

Mayor de Blasio with the NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea — together before COVID. File photo: NYC Mayor's Office
Mayor de Blasio with the NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea — together before COVID. File photo: NYC Mayor's Office

Can we name some names here?

Congress demanded, and got, the resignations of the heads of the Capitol Police forces who allowed the Jan. 6 insurrection, but New York officials are moving slowly to root out the alleged Trump insurrectionists and enablers in their security ranks.

Mayor de Blasio told reporters on Monday that any city employee who participated in the insurrection at the Capitol in Washington would be fired. But the mayor did not publicly direct his police commissioner to carry out such terminations.

“Any New York City employee, any part of the city government who participated in an attack on our democratic institutions, who participated in an insurrection at the Capitol, they will be terminated. Period,” the mayor said at his morning briefing. “If we have proof that someone violently attacked our United States government, they will not be working for New York City any longer.”

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, for his part, said on Monday that the NYPD is investigating at least one member who may have participated in the Capitol riot — but he declined to name any individual.

“I can tell you that there is one investigation … on one member. There is no name yet released because we don’t know yet if it’s true or not, but I can tell you that anyone committing crimes certainly would have a very short shelf life with the NYPD,” Shea told NY1 in a telephone interview.

Shea isn’t saying enough right now, said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a police reformer. He noted on Twitter over the weekend that Shea has not said “a single word to the New Yorkers he’s sworn to protect condemning the violence or assuring us that our government buildings are safe. Stand back and stand by I guess.”

Moreover, days after the vicious assault instigated by President Trump, no New York public official had called for the resignation of the presidents of the Police Benevolent Association and Sergeants Benevolent Association, whom for months had used their union’s social media channels to promote the candidate they endorsed, President Trump.

PBA President Patrick Lynch denounced the lethal insurrection, calling it “a criminal assault on our government, our laws, and on the police officers who defend them.” But his statement did not name Trump nor venture any regret for his union’s endorsement. When Lynch endorsed the president last August, he said, “I cannot remember when we’ve ever endorsed for the president of the United States until now — that’s how important this is.”

SBA President Ed Mullins, meanwhile, sought to minimize the assault on a co-equal branch of American government, and contrasted it favorably to the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

“Today’s activities can be contrasted by the fact that there were no fires started, no looting of innocent businesses, no destruction of private property and no city was seized. Only government property was destroyed,” he said in a statement to PIX11, although he did call the insurrectionists an “angry, violent mob.”

Mullins some months earlier had said Black Lives Matters protesters were “attacking … the fiber [of] what we believe in. They’re attacking law and order and authority.”

Further, on Jan. 9, Mullins took to The Hill, an outlet covering Congress, to cavil about the Democratic Party’s “identity crisis,” which he identified as coming from “radicals attempting to drive the Democratic bus off the public safety cliff …on ‘defunding police.’”

“Congressional Democrats need police to speak to the vast and diverse middle of America, center left and center right, who correctly see public safety as complex and necessary,” Mullins argued. “The real question is whether police need congressional Democrats.

The administration’s weak response to the alleged existence of insurrectionists in NYPD ranks comes after it took a “see no evil” approach to gathering clouds of authoritarianism and brutality among police officers over the summer, during the Black Lives Matter protests. The mayor deflected and defended the police several months ago when Streetsblog quizzed him about whether he and the police commissioner prepared for the possibility of widespread unrest and violence around the election, especially given that many officers might feel conflicted because of their allegiance to Trump.

He said he found it “very sad” that many New Yorkers thought that “what a leader of the PBA says reflects the whole NYPD,” calling the idea “painfully, bluntly false.”

“I don’t know what happened in this city that that could become so unclear,” he said, sidestepping the police unions’ endorsement of Trump. “I think it’s something we’re going to have to work on a lot going forward, but no, the PBA leadership does not speak for the men and women of the NYPD.”

The administration’s substantive response to the official brutality toward many peacefully protesting New Yorkers also failed to inspire confidence among many.

The question of a public accounting of the culpability of any New Yorkers in the Capitol attack, while subsidiary to the drama in Washington, nonetheless was thrown into sharp relief on Monday by Gov. Cuomo, who demanded that each of the 500 communities with local police forces submit to him plans for reform by the budgetary deadline of April 1.

“Last year exposed the tensions between the police and communities more starkly than ever before,” Cuomo said during his State of the State address.

He added that each community must redesign public safety in a collaborative process and “must pass a law instituting a new public safety function by April in order to receive state funding. This is an imperative for the state.”

Cuomo laid out some “absolutes” for the reforms in his address, identifying, among others, “mutual respect,” “individual rights,” and “rejecting brutality.”

But these broad concepts didn’t satisfy those demanding specificity in the accounting.

“It is disappointing that the governor’s address … did not provide specific solutions that would reduce police budgets, increase accountability, and reinvest much needed resources into education, housing, health care and jobs in the communities that need them most,” Monifa Bandele, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, said in a statement.