NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The NYPD is pushing back against criticism over a violent encounter caught on camera.
Officers and top bosses within the department are defending what happened when officers tangled with two men Tuesday during a chaotic arrest outside the 168th Subway Station in Washington Heights.
In a Friday radio interview, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said subway riders reported men in a stairway harassing them.
The two officers in the video went to investigate and – in newly obtained video – the two suspects are clearly and aggressively seen resisting arrest.
They were identified as 36-year-old Aaron Grissom and 37-year-old Sidney Williams.
Police say both have criminal histories and investigators describe them as being fond of taunting police. One of them was even caught on cell phone video bragging about the incident.
“They don’t like me, but they can’t touch me. They get hurt and I get paid. I got three lawsuits, working on number four,” the suspect is recorded saying.
Commissioner O’Neill points out that edited, partial videos – like the original one appearing to show cops with their batons drawn – don’t tell the whole story and may have led to a rush to judgment.
“Mr. Grissom decided he was going to punch a cop and you can’t punch a cop. You can’t fight a cop and you can’t resist arrest. You have to respect the police,” the commissioner explained.
O’Neill and others are slamming the district attorney’s office for not going far enough to punish the violent suspects. Only Grissom was charged with assault, not Williams.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan tweeted that Sydney Williams’ charges are “unfortunately deterred” and went on to say attacking a cop is never acceptable.
The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association said “The Manhattan DA’s office needs to wake up and realize that police officers cannot do our job when prosecutors won’t do theirs.”
Commissioner O’Neill said the D.A. should be tougher in this case or risk sending a dangerous message. “We’re looking for the D.A. to charge Williams… It’s not just about two cops now, it’s about all New York City cops, keeping them safe.”
Michael Wildes, a former federal prosecutor and current mayor of Englewood, New Jersey, saw the video and thinks when it comes to Williams, the DA may be wise to wait a bit.
“Multiple assailants at the same time, coming with different degrees requires a longer investigation and it could reverse itself and they could bring charges again when they see another camera or acquire more information,” he said.
Grissom is due back in court in February, and is ordered to stay away form the subway station in Washington Heights.
“It’s not just about two cops now, it’s about all New York City cops, keeping them safe,” O’Neill said.
The department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the officers’ actions.