Pressure escalates for NYPD Commissioner Bratton to account for, or resign as a consequence of, police brutality

New York State Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-The Bronx), left, addressed the media outside One Police Plaza, headquarters for the New York Police Department. During the delivery of emotionally-charged remarks, Assemblymember Blake demanded that police officers be held to account for the use of excessive use of force. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens

New York State Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-The Bronx), left, addressed the media outside One Police Plaza, headquarters for the New York Police Department. During the delivery of emotionally-charged remarks, Assemblymember Blake demanded that police officers be held to account for the use of excessive use of force. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens

By LOUIS FLORES

During a press conference outside New York Police Department headquarters, New York State Assemblymember Michael Blake (D-The Bronx) described the circumstances that led up to the use of excessive force by NYPD officers against him last Saturday afternoon.

Assemblymember Blake said that the NYPD officers used excessive force against him whilst he was making an official appearance at a community event at the Morris Houses in The Bronx. 

Assemblymember Blake said he never posed any threat against any police officer, certainly not to merit the use of excessive force, which he described as a "bear hug" being applied to him, followed by his body being thrown against a gate.

Hours after the use of excessive force, Assemblymember Blake said he lodged a complaint against the NYPD officers with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an oversight body that grassroots activists claim has been weakened by leadership at the NYPD.

One week prior to the attack, Assemblymember Blake said he had hosted an event to examine police-community relations, invoking a sense of irony and outrage at having become a victim of police brutality.

Whilst Assemblymember Blake was calling for NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to agree to a meeting to discuss the systemic issues regarding the police use of force, grassroots activists affiliated with the #ShutDownCityHallNYC movement began to occupy City Hall Park, a few blocks away, calling for NYPD Commissioner Bratton to be removed from office, for the defunding of the NYPD, and for the payment of reparations to victims of police brutality and officer-involved homicides.

The occupation of City Hall Park, organised by the group, Millions March NYC, represented an escalation of grassroots efforts to demand accountability amongst NYPD leadership.

The embattled police force has been the subject of a wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation reportedly being led by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and some grassroots activists have begun to call for the appointment of a public commission patterned after the Knapp Commission to investigate systemic misconduct and corruption at the NYPD.

As part of the reported Federal corruption investigation into the NYPD, prosecutors filed criminal charges against a campaign contributor, who claimed to possess the political influence to determine who would be selected to serve as police commissioner. Despite efforts made by U.S. Attorney Bharara to reassure public confidence in the integrity of the delivery of police services, the office of U.S. Attorney Bharara has declined requests made by Progress Queens for the nation's top Federal prosecutor in New York's southern district to reassure the public that no corruptive influence played a part in the selection of NYPD Commissioner Bratton to return to the police force's top post in 2014. NYPD Commissioner Bratton had previously served as the police force's leader during the administration of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-New York City).

In the time leading up to revelations about the Federal corruption investigation of the NYPD and in the time since, NYPD Commissioner Bratton has twice indicated that he will not remain as the police force's leader into any second term won by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City). Whilst NYPD Commissioner Bratton has claimed that his decision is voluntary, Progress Queens has noted that the last two times that the NYPD have faced investigations of systemic wrongdoing, a change in the commissionership has occurred with each systemic investigation.

The national social movement demanding greater criminal justice accountability for police brutality and officer-involved homicides and for an end to race-based policing, notably under the protest movement known as #BlackLivesMatter, have led, in part, to changes in leadership in the police departments of Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland. For unknown reasons, police accountability in New York has lagged second- and third-tier urban American cities.