Why does the NYPD keep getting doused with water?

NYPD officer.
NYPD officer.
Drop of Light/Shutterstock

Why does the NYPD keep getting doused with water?

A guide to the summer’s most politically explosive Ice Bucket Challenge.
July 26, 2019

Surf’s up, NYPD! Looks like the growing trend of dousing New York Police Department officers with buckets of water isn’t going away anytime soon.

A fourth water-throwing incident in New York City was reported on July 25 and now people are becoming more and more divided when it comes to this new trend. While many have found these instances to be beyond disrespectful to the boys in blue, others find the furious response a tad over the top – it’s summer, after all, and cops are trained to be unaffected by provocation.

The first water bucket dousing was caught on camera on July 22, showing multiple people splashing officers during an arrest, then throwing an empty bucket at one of the officers’ heads, and it solicited some very strong reactions from New York City lawmakers. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responded immediately to the dousing, calling the behavior “unacceptable” on Twitter and announced that the NYPD is investigating the incident. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called the water-throwing “dangerous” and thanked officers for the restraint. Days later, he echoed his original sentiments – while also calling attention to NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s salary increase over the past five years. Police Commissioner James O’Neill praised the NYPD officers’ ability to work in hostile conditions and condemned the water-throwing. Twenty-seven black lawmakers – including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a 2021 mayoral candidate – wrote a letter to condemn the deluge of water-throwing, published in The New York Times. Even President Donald Trump chimed in, calling on de Blasio to stand up for the officers targeted.

Three men were taken into custody on July 24 for their participation in the drenching of the officers, but so far only one person, Courtney Thompson, has been charged – with disorderly conduct, harassment, criminal nuisance and obstructing governmental administration, CNN reports. But that hasn’t stopped more people from throwing water at cops.

A second incident caught on tape shows two cops walking across the street getting soaked as buckets of water are splashed at them and dumped over their heads. The third video to surface shows two female officers being inundated with buckets of water and super Super Soakers

With little insight as to why this seemingly benign, albeit disrespectful, prank began, a few media outlets have compiled their own insights and analysis on the rise of drenching on-duty officers.

Taking a dramatic approach, the Daily News’ Leonard Greene suggests that these dousings could ultimately result in the death of an officer: “And while these officers survived the ordeal, and lived to tell about the indignity they suffered at the hands of lawless louts, we know all too well that this kind of insolence often ends with a flag-draped coffin and the mayor giving a eulogy for another dead cop.”

The Times, meanwhile, doesn’t think the drenchings are such a big deal, comparing Thompson’s charges with the nonexistent punishment faced by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who’s chokehold resulted in the death of Eric Garner. “While few would argue that throwing water at a police officer is something that should pass without consequence,” Ginia Bellafante of the Times writes, “the reality is that Mr. Thompson is currently facing more severe punishment than Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer whose chokehold resulted in the death of Eric Garner five years ago.”

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
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