Two New York Police Department command officers will not be charged for videotaped incidents in which they appeared to use excessive force against Occupy Wall Street protesters. According to the New York Times, Erin M. Duggan of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office stated, “The district attorney’s office has concluded, after a thorough investigation, that we cannot prove these allegations criminally beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna was filmed dousing non-violent demonstrators with pepper spray. Apparently, they had the audacity to object while being corraled into pens like farm animals. Bologna faced internal department discipline, including loss of vacation days. The deputy inspector is being sued and so far, NYPD is refusing to provide him with legal assistance.
Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardonna was filmed spinning protester Felix Rivera-Pitre around and punching him in the face. Unlike Bologna, the Huffington Post reports that Cardonna will receive NYPD support for his legal defense. According to HuffPo, “other video apparently showed Rivera-Pitre with a clenched fist as though he was preparing to strike the veteran NYPD supervisor.”
The incident involving Cardonna may be more equivocal than Bologna’s cowardly use of pepper spray. But if Rivera-Pitre displayed a “clenched fist,” maybe he was provoked by NYPD’s absurd overreaction to street protest. The actions of Cardonna and Bologna were certainly not isolated incidents during Occupy protests.
Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic reviewed a report produced by several university law clinics, highlighting allegations which he found to be “… most credible, whether due to video footage of the incident or eyewitness testimony from a credentialed journalist, a designated legal observer, or a member of the legal team that put together the report.” Those incidents include a videotaped police attack on a cafe employee who stepped outside to film the protest; an officer driving a scooter into the middle of a crowd, injuring a legal observer; police assaulting protesters for no apparent reason; and police intimidation of and assaults on journalists and legal observers.
With all this in mind, it seems like a good time for the NYPD to engage in some self-reflection. But many in policing see only misunderstood heroes who are entitled to blind adoration from the public when they look in the mirror.
It is no secret that there is a vanguard of sorts in policing which celebrates the fascist tendencies of the occupation. The Denver, Colorado officers who wore shirts with the slogan “we get up early to beat the crowds” after the 2008 Democratic National Convention exemplify this attitude. These officers truly believe in keeping “those people” — the poor, “uppity” minorities, “hippies,” activists, “dopers” and leftists — “in line.” And they are fully dedicated to their unstated mission: Sweeping signs of dissent under the rug, lest we frighten America’s fragile, pants-wetting, bourgeois elements.
In spite of the abuse, US protesters rarely become violent toward the police. It remains to be seen whether non-violent tactics will suffice when officers like Anthony Bologna and his porcine “brother” John Pike elude legal responsibility, even when their actions are filmed.
Here’s a training update for US law enforcement: Your impunity will breed resistance.