Police Explain Their Actions to Community Members

By Frank Quinn

After an eight-month hiatus due to the pandemic, the 6th Precinct Community Council convened a virtual meeting on October 21st. Newly installed Commanding Officer Stephen Spataro and other officers answered a number of written questions submitted by the public, including regarding two recent high-profile incidents.

On Sunday, October 18th a person was shot on the #1 northbound subway platform at Seventh Avenue near 12th Street. The victim walked to the nearby Lenox Health Center for assistance. Captain Spataro reported that a suspect had been identified, the shooting was the result of a dispute, and that both the victim and suspect have criminal histories.

Another question related to an incident on Saturday, September 26th involving people who had gathered on Hudson and West 10th Streets. Viral video of the incident showed police clashing with pedestrians—a loudspeaker can be heard in multiple videos advising pedestrians not to walk in the street or obstruct sidewalks. 

All agree the matter began with an organized gathering in Washington Square Park that included a DJ playing amplified music. Captain Spataro stated that the DJ was told by uniformed city parks officials to cease playing the music after nearby residents complained, and that when the DJ and others would not comply with the requests from the parks officials police were called to disperse the crowd, and that the music equipment was confiscated in the process.

A TWEET FROM SENATOR BRAD HOLYMAN on the night of a police action in Greenwich Village. Image courtesy of Frank Quinn.

Spataro reported that the group then mobilized and made its way to the 6th precinct where they “verbally stated their intention to take over the precinct and take back the property we had seized from them.” Spataro said police took the threat seriously and secured the precinct, and that some officers said they recognized some in the group from previous encounters. He also said that after repeated warnings (heard on the videos), a decision was made to remove people who were blocking the street.

The incident was widely reported by local media, including witnesses describing the police action as excessive. State Senator Brad Hoylman was quoted in the New York Times describing those who had gathered as “peaceful protesters.” Together with assembly member Deborah Glick, Hoylman issued a joint statement: “Last night, bystanders and protesters in our districts in Greenwich Village were charged and pushed to the ground in a disturbing escalation of force by NYPD officers, which was unwarranted and unacceptable.”

In addition to speaking about the incidents having begun as a result of complaints from residents regarding the amplified music, Captain Spataro addressed the justification for the police actions near the precinct, citing the safety concern when people intentionally block an arterial roadway in the immediate vicinity of a police precinct, and “willful” disregard of police instructions to disperse. 

There were many questions about issues created by outdoor dining locations and other protests. The officers explained that they work to use discretion regarding intervention, noting competing interests between residents, businesses, and protesters.

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