July 7, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Council Member Rory Lancman has called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fire Police Commissioner Dermot Shea for blaming the recent surge in violent crime on criminal justice reforms and measures that aim to combat police brutality.
Lancman, who represents the 24th Council District in central Queens, said that Shea’s statements are an admission of failure and a complete surrender to lawlessness.
The councilman penned a letter July 6 to the mayor calling for Shea to be sacked.
Lancman took exception to comments by Shea, where the commissioner attributed the recent surge in violent crime to bail reform, the reduction of inmates at Rikers Island and legislation banning chokeholds. Shea also said that police were short on resources to do their job effectively.
“Look at the Rikers population over the last year… ask a sane person, it’s about half,” Shea told NY1 Monday.
“And where is that other half right now? We’ve transplanted the general population to the streets of New York City and it’s extremely frustrating,” he said.
Shea said that a council bill that will ban methods of restraint–like chokeholds and kneeling on a suspect’s back–is preventing cops from doing their jobs effectively.
“We have to change that diaphragm [chokehold] bill that came out of the city council, it is insane and it is crippling police officers,” Shea said.
Lancman refuted the commissioner’s claims and said that those laws were drafted to protect residents from police brutality and a biased criminal justice system.
Lancman also said that it made no sense for Shea to blame the city council’s chokehold bill since it has yet to become law.
The council bill, which was introduced by Lancman and passed by the council June 18, will make it a criminal offense for cops to use chokeholds in all situations. It goes further than state legislation – which was signed by the governor last month – by also banning cops from sitting, kneeling or standing on a suspect’s chest and back during an arrest.
“Police Commissioner Dermot Shea’s blaming a violent weekend on no longer jailing people too poor to pay bail and on officers soon no longer being allowed to choke suspects with impunity is a stunning admission of failure and a complete surrender to lawlessness,” Lancman wrote in the letter.
“If he won’t resign, you need to fire him and appoint a Commissioner and a senior police leadership committed to, and capable of, obeying civilian authority and enforcing the law,” he wrote.
Lancman’s letter came after a weekend of bloodshed on New York City streets that saw 63 people shot from Friday, July 3 to Sunday, July 5 resulting in 10 fatalities, according to the NYPD. There was also one fatal stabbing.
Over the same three-day period last year there were 21 people shot and 6 murders, police said.
However, de Blasio has ignored Lancman’s appeal for Shea’s firing and said today that he is sticking with the NYPD’s leadership. The mayor said that the police department has taken steps to improve and said that the recent uptick in crime was an aberration due to multiple factors.
“The answer is no,” the mayor said at a press briefing when a reporter referred to Lancman’s letter and whether Shea should be fired.
“This is now a majority people of color police department… a police department that has reduced arrests intensely, got rid of stop-and-frisk… and reduced the amount of arrests to the tune of hundreds of thousands while keeping the city safe,” he said.
Queens Council member Robert Holden also rejected Lancman’s calls to remove Shea.
Holden said that some elected officials are determined to bring the city back to the “bad old days.”
“We should listen to veteran law enforcement experts like Commissioner Shea, not call for their removal because they disagree with bad legislation that will make us all less safe,” Holden told the Queens Post.
My letter officially calling on @NYCMayor to fire Commissioner Shea pic.twitter.com/vk7a8fIVjd
— (((Rory Lancman))) (@RoryLancman) July 6, 2020