Police discipline in the wake of protest enforcement

NYPD confronting a peaceful protest on June 5th in Manhattan.
NYPD confronting a peaceful protest on June 5th in Manhattan.
Ron Adar/Shutterstock
NYPD confronting a peaceful protest on June 5th in Manhattan.

Police discipline in the wake of protest enforcement

Videos have shown use of force against protesters. Here are the police who’ve faced punishment so far.
June 11, 2020

As protesters have taken to the streets across New York to protest police brutality, video footage has circulated of police using physical force, even violence, to control or disperse protesters. So far, only a few police officers have seen the beginnings of repercussions. Here are the known instances of officers facing discipline in well-known incidents. According to New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, in his city at least, more discipline is on the way.

NYPD officer shoves woman to the ground

On the second night of protests in New York City, May 29, a video circulated of a police officer in Brooklyn shoving a young woman out of the street onto the curb. That woman, Dounya Zayer, suffered a seizure and was hospitalized. The NYPD announced about a week after the incident that the officer, Vincent D’Andraia, was suspended without pay. The Brooklyn district attorney has also brought several charges against him, including assault. D’Andraia’s supervisor Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman, who was walking beside him when the incident occurred, was reassigned, but has so far faced no other disciplinary or criminal repercussions. 

Buffalo officers shove an old man to the ground

In another instance of police violently pushing a protester to the ground, a June 4 video taken by a reporter with the radio station WBFO showed two Buffalo police officers push an elderly protester to the ground. That man, 75-year-old Martin Gugino, began visibly bleeding from his head in the video as a crowd of police walked past him. Gugino went to the hospital in serious condition. The two officers who pushed him, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, were suspended from the Buffalo Police Department the next day. Soon after, the Buffalo district attorney charged them with assault on June 6, to which they both pleaded not guilty.

NYPD officer pulls down the mask of and pepper sprays a protester

During the first weekend of protests, when aggressive police enforcement was arguably at its peak, video showed an officer pulled down the mask of a Brooklyn protester and pepper sprayed him in the face. Footage showed Andrew Smith had been standing with his hands up and by all appearances peacefully protesting when the officer acted, apparently unprompted. The name of that officer remains unknown, but the NYPD announced that he had been suspended pending further disciplinary action at the conclusion of an internal investigation. 

NYPD police drive SUVs into crowd of protesters

Once again, the name of the officers involved in this incident remain unknown, and since they remained in their cars, videos don’t show their faces either. In two videos shot from different angles, footage shows two cop cars drive into a crowd of protesters blocking the vehicles. The first car was stopped by the protesters in front, with a metal barrier between it and the crowd and the SUV. After several items were thrown at the vehicle, it suddenly accelerated into the crowd. Video showed a second police SUV approaching from behind and driving around the stopped car where the crowd was slightly thinner, but still present, just before the first car accelerated. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the NYPD is investigating the incident, but no further information about the officers involved or potential discipline has been released.

NYPD officer doors protester while driving by

On May 29, the same night that police pushed Dounya Zayer in Brooklyn, another officer in the same borough opened his or her door into a protester as the car drove past. The officer involved in this incident has had his or her gun and shield taken away and is currently on “modified duty.” The disciplinary action came at the conclusion of an internal investigation.

Tasered teen sparks investigation

Sixteen-year-old Jahmel Leach was hospitalized on June 1 after police tasered him. Police officials claimed surveillance footage showed the teenager attempting to set garbage on fire several times that evening. Upon arriving at the scene, the video reportedly showed a uniformed officer taser Leach, who collapsed and also suffered injuries to his face upon hitting the ground. De Blasio that the incident is under investigation, but information about any specific officers has not been released. The Bronx district attorney and the Civilian Complaint Review Board are looking into the arrest as well. 

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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