De Blasio Touts Numerous Police Reforms, Says NYC Has Strong Tradition Of Non-Violent Protest


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) —  Before the announcement was made that a Staten Island Grand Jury decided not to indict an NYPD officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he’s not anticipating any violent protests like ones that were seen in Ferguson, Missouri after an officer was not indicted in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

When asked if what happened in Ferguson could happen in New York, Speaking Wednesday on “CBS This Morning,” Bratton said he doesn’t anticipate any violence.

“We’ve been preparing in multiple ways for months now, conducting a series of community meetings throughout the city,” he said. “And we’ve been tactically preparing in terms of bringing in resources to deal with any potential eventuality.”

In a statement after the decision was announced, Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed Bratton’s statement.

“Today’s outcome is one that many in our city did not want. Yet New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest,” de Blasio said. “We trust that those unhappy with today’s grand jury decision will make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way.  We all agree that demonstrations and free speech are valuable contributions to debate, and that violence and disorder are not only wrong – but hurt the critically important goals we are trying to achieve together.”

De Blasio went on to tout a series of police reforms put in place since he took office, including pointing to Bratton himself, who he called “a strong, proven change agent.”

“We have dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk. We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community,” de Blasio said. “We have changed our marijuana policy to reduce low-level arrest, and we have launched a new pilot program for body cameras for officers to improve transparency and accountability.”

Bratton said he’s more concerned about outside agitators and spontaneous protests. The NYPD is vowing to take action is any Garner protests get out of hand.

“What worries me the most is not so much the organized events, but the disorganized, the spontaneous, somebody who you have not prepared for that just all of a sudden starts acting up,” he said.

Bratton said he sent detectives to Ferguson to keep an eye on people he called “professional agitators,” some of whom he said were from New York.

He said officers were also sent to see what tactics might be used by agitators.

Garner, a father of six, died in July after being placed in an apparent chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner was being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

The announcement on Nov. 24 that a grand jury would not indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Brown spurred renewed protests and violence. Several businesses in Ferguson and neighboring Dellwood were burned to the ground during the unrest.

Several organizations from the city announced Wednesday they are planning to hold a joint protest after the grand jury decision is announced, regardless of the outcome. They plan to demonstrate at Foley Square in lower Manhattan on the day after the decision is revealed.

Using the rallying cry “this stops today” — words Garner said when police approached him on the day he died — the organizations are demanding that the NYPD take full accountability for instances of excessive and deadly force and end the department’s “broken windows” policing strategy.

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