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New York officers could face suspension after street clashes, commissioner says

Dermot Shea pleaded with politicians to calm their rhetoric against officers, who have been shot at and stabbed.
Image: NYPD protest
Police detain protesters as they march down the street during a solidarity rally for George Floyd, in New York on May 30, 2020.Wong Maye-E / AP

Some New York Police Department officers are expected to be suspended for their sometimes violent interactions with people protesting the death of George Floyd, New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Thursday.

Shea pleaded with politicians to calm the rhetoric against the NYPD, noting that officers have not seriously injured any protesters, but officers have been shot at, stabbed, hit over the head with a fire extinguisher, and other forms of violence.

The impromptu news conference held without Mayor Bill de Blasio and at a police headquarters surrounded by barricades and officers in riot helmets was conciliatory and direct. It included a detailed discussion of Wednesday night's stabbing that is under review as a possible terror attack against officers.

NBC News reviewed surveillance video Wednesday that shows two officers standing on a corner when the suspect, whom police identified as Dzenan Camovic, walks up from the other side of the corner and in an instant stabs an officer in the neck, police say just missing his artery.

Before the news conference, video of attacks on police were shown, starting with dramatic body camera video of the Wednesday night attack with officers yelling for a tourniquet.

Shea called attacks on police over the past week a deeply troubling trend and said, "This is a pattern that has been growing and has reached a fever pitch."

Addressing unnamed leaders, the commissioner urged "less press conferences, less tweets and more accountability."

He said rhetoric against police from politicians has raised tension in the city.

"It encourages fighting the police during lawful arrests, and while all this is going on, we hear silence from so many of our elected officials, it's sickening," Shea said.

"We live in a toxic time," he continued, "one which increasingly relies on a number of things, selective facts, misinformation and rumor."

But Shea also apologized for the behavior of some NYPD officers during the protests.

In the last two weeks, New York police officers have repeatedly been accused of abusing protesters, including driving into a crowd and using excessive force to push them back. On Wednesday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams posted video on Twitter showing police officers in Brooklyn forcibly using their batons against peaceful protesters to get them to move down the street.

During demonstrations Saturday, a New York officer was captured on video making a white power sign with his hand.

And on Wednesday the Associated Press revealed video of two of its journalists being shoved by NYPD officers who yelled expletives at them.

"For there to be calm, there also must be contrition, so I am sorry," Shea said. "For our part in the damage to civility, for our part in racial bias, in excessive force, unacceptable behavior, unacceptable language, and many other mistakes, I am sorry.

"I have said where officers have acted unprofessional, we will deal with that, I will deal with that."

He said about seven videos are under review by Internal Affairs, with another three from Wednesday night that may come under review.

"I can tell you without a doubt there will probably be some suspensions," he said, adding that some could even face departmental charges.