'Stop treating us like animals': New York police boss condemns vilification of cops

10 June 2020, 10:30

Mike O'Meara said recent treatment of police officers had been 'disgusting'
Mike O'Meara said recent treatment of police officers had been 'disgusting'. Picture: YouTube/NYC BPA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

New York's police union chief has said people should stop treating officers "like animals and thugs" in an angry speech where he stressed the actions that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis were "disgusting".

Mike O'Meara, the president of the New York State Association of Police Benevolent Associations, told reporters on Tuesday that officers had felt "abandoned" by politicians, and "vilified" by the press after recent events in the US.

Pulling out his badge as he stood in front of a group of officers, he said: "This isn't stained by someone in Minneapolis.

"It's still got a shine on it. And so do theirs. So do theirs.

"Stop treating us like animals and thugs and start treating us with some respect. That's what we're here today to say.

"We've been left out of the conversation. We've been vilified. It's disgusting; it's disgusting."

The comments come following several weeks of unrest in the US in response to Mr Floyd - a 46-year-old black man - dying at the hands of a white police officer.

His final moments were captured in now-infamous footage, and show an unarmed and handcuffed Mr Floyd lying face down in the street with officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into his neck.

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Despite Mr Floyd telling Chauvin, he couldn't breathe, the officer did not budge for more than eight minutes - several minutes of which Mr Floyd appeared to be unresponsive.

The 46-year-old never regained consciousness, and Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder.

Three other officers have also been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

"I am not Derek Chauvin," Mr O'Meara told reporters, before turning to his colleagues: "They are not him.

"He killed someone. We didn't. We are restrained. And you know what? I'm saying this to all the cops here because everybody's trying to shame us.

"The legislators, the press, everybody is trying to shame us into being embarrassed about our profession."

He later added: "We don't condone Minneapolis. We roundly reject what he did as disgusting. It's disgusting. It's not what we do. It's not what police officers do."

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Mr Floyd's death two weeks ago has incensed America, leading to nationwide protests against police brutality, and reviving fierce debate about racial discrimination in the country's justice system.

Minneapolis authorities have since pledged to defund the police - and other departments around the US are facing calls to do the same.

In New York, police came under criticism at the height of the unrest after video circulated on social media showing an elderly man, Martin Gugino, being shoved to the ground by officers.

The footage shows him with blood pooling from his ear as officers walk by. He was later taken to hospital.

But Mr O'Meara has insisted that unnecessary violence is not what the force is about, pointing to the millions of interactions that officers have per year, the majority of which, he says, are "overwhelmingly positive".

He said: "I read in the papers all week; we all read in the papers that in the black community mothers are worried about their children getting home from school without being killed by a cop.

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"What world are we living in? It doesn't happen. It does not happen."

He added: "Our legislators abandoned us. Our press is vilifying us. Well you know what guys? I'm proud to be a cop and I'm going to continue being proud to be a cop until I retire.

"That's all I have to say."