A New York City police officer is suspended without pay after videos shared over social media Saturday night appeared to show him using his patrol vehicle's speaker to say “Trump 2020.”
The department’s official NYPD News Twitter account shared one video posted of the incident and said that the Brooklyn South Investigation Unit was investigating the matter. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea also commented on the matter, calling the incident “one hundred percent unacceptable.”
“Law Enforcement must remain apolitical, it is essential in our role to serve ALL New Yorkers regardless of any political beliefs,” Shea tweeted.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also commented on the incident through his Twitter account on Sunday.
"Let me be clear: ANY NYPD Officer pushing ANY political agenda while on duty will face consequences," the mayor said. "We will act fast here, and this will not be tolerated."
The NYPD News provided an update Sunday afternoon that said the officer was suspended without pay effective immediately while he was under investigation.
Two different videos were shared online of what appeared to be the same incident from Saturday night. In the one retweeted by the NYPD, which contains profane language, a person is apparently confronting the officer and telling him to “do it again.” It is unclear what happened prior to the videos being recorded.
“Trump 2020,” the officer said over the loud speaker after being told to “say it again.”
The person recording then calls the officer a “f------ facist.”
Endorsing a political candidate or sharing personal views while in uniform or while on duty is outlined as prohibited conduct in the NYPD's patrol guide.
The interaction seemed to occur in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Saturday was also the start of early in-person voting in New York City, with thousands of residents turning out to polling sites across the five boroughs.
Brandon Hines posted a video taken by a roommate from their apartment window, which picks up at the end of exchange documented in the other video.
“Trump 2020,” the officer said again. “Put it on YouTube, put it on Facebook. Trump 2020.”
Hines, a screenwriter who has lived in Flatbush since 2013, confirmed that he and his roommate witnessed the incident to NBC News. He heard the commotion at about 10 p.m. Saturday night and went to watch after he heard a bystander arguing with the officer.
"It wasn’t even about the 'Trump 2020,' I just went to make sure that person had another pair of eyes on them to make sure they’re safe," Hines said.
The 34-year-old said that the energy in the neighborhood and surrounding Prospect Park shifted after the George Floyd protests over the summer and that it wasn't the first time he's witnessed police officers using their bullhorn to taunt passers by.
The Police Benevolent Association, one of the largest police unions representing New York City officers, endorsed President Donald Trump’s bid for re-election back in August. The union responded to concerns of police impartiality as “hysterical nonsense” on Tuesday in response to an op-ed questioning whether officers could be trusted to keep the post-election peace.
“The PBA endorses candidates every year,” the union tweeted. “Every year, NYC cops protect the right of ALL voters to cast their ballot in peace.”
Hines doesn't know why the officer chose to send the political message using police equipment, seemingly on duty, but is unsurprised that it would happen following police union endorsement of the president.
"This completely tracks, it completely tracks why this person would feel emboldened to say 'Trump 2020' on a bullhorn in a Black neighborhood," Hines said. "If I’m a writer, which I am, this story tracks from start to finish."
Hines said that while condemnation of the incident from city officials is a good start, there needs to be more than just words in this case.
"It’s all about action," Hines said. "People can say all they want in 2020, but everyone is waiting for the action. Everyone is watching."
Saturday night’s incident comes the same week Miami city officials said an officer was facing discipline after he was photographed wearing a "Trump 2020" face mask while in uniform in a polling place.
The officer was voting at the time, according to City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. But Steve Simeonidis, the chairman of Miami-Dade Democrats who shared the photograph, accused the officer of voter intimidation in a tweet.
Suarez would not answer to whether the action crossed the line into voter intimidation when asked by reporters Tuesday, but did call the action inappropriate and in violation of department policy.
“Police officers are supposed to be impartial, so irrespective of who the person was, whatever sign it would have been, it would have been problematic,” Suarez said.