NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea testifies on police interactions with the public

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea testified Monday in the ongoing investigation by the state attorney general into interactions between the NYPD and the public.

Letitia James' investigation heard from 100 witnesses late last week regarding the unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

"These were extremely violent, almost from the start," Shea said. "And the violence was directed toward the law enforcement personnel that were present."

While some have blamed outside agitators for the rioting, violence and looting, it is how some NYPD officers responded that is under the microscope.

"I am here today because I think it's important to tell our officers' stories and give an accounting of events during the last few weeks," Shea said. "Our trust has taken a hit, I think you're right, absolutely...but to say no one has trust in the police department, I don't think is accurate either."

In certain cases, the commissioner acknowledged some offices were wrong.

"There have been several incidents involving the use of pepper spray that we deemed not in conformance and suspended officers over that," he said.

But in some cases, Shea doubled down and testified that cell phone videos don't tell the whole story, including when police cars seemed to mow down peaceful protesters.

"I think that couldn't be further, from what you described, as an accurate reporting," he said. "What would you do if you were set upon and your life was in danger? And that description, that they were running over peaceful protesters, I don't think you're being fair."

Shea said nearly 400 officers were injured during the protests, more than a hundred of whom have not yet recovered and returned to work.

"The public deserves answers, and I am glad the NYPD has agreed to testify as part of our investigation," James said. "We heard hours of troubling testimony from brave New Yorkers about their interactions with the NYPD over the past few weeks, but our investigation would be incomplete without getting answers directly from the NYPD. True accountability and justice will only come when the truth is laid bare for all to hear."

The Attorney General's Office also released videos of the first two days of oral testimony and all of the written public testimony that was submitted to the office.

The hearing, which began on June 17, sheds light on how police in New York have handled protests addressing police misconduct.

James presided over the hearing and was joined by former United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and founding Director of NYU Policing Project Barry Friedman, who serve as special advisors in the Office of the Attorney General's (OAG) investigation into interactions between the police and the general public.
Members of the public, elected officials, legal groups, and community organizations submitted oral and written testimony to the OAG. In total, there were more than 300 submitted pieces of testimony and 17hours of oral testimony.There were 52 speakers on the first day of the hearing, including 20 members of the public, 17 government officials, and 15 community organizations. The second day of the hearing saw 48 speakers, with 44 members of the public, two government officials, a community organization, and a law enforcement organization.

All written testimony, videos, and transcriptions of the oral testimony that was given on June 17 and 18 will be made available at: ag.ny.gov/nypd-protest-response.

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