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Editorial

We need to respect law enforcement

Posted

Imagine going to work and attempting to do your job while a group of loudmouths scream at you and douse you with buckets of water. For some police officers in New York City over the past month, that was their reality. After the attacks, it is urgent that we enact stricter laws to better protect police officers and maintain a civil society.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of incidents in which officers were soaked with buckets of water and struck by bottles of water while on the job. On July 31, in an incident in Queens, an unidentified person threw water at officers who were working to control traffic flow. Elsewhere in Queens, a man hurled water bottles at traffic enforcement agents while he filmed it all on his cell phone. In Harlem, officers were drenched with water while trying to make an arrest, and in one case, a bucket was thrown at their heads. And in the Bronx and Brooklyn, water was dumped on officers as they showed restraint, calmly walking away from the incidents.

Videos of the water attacks went viral and spurred widespread outrage across the state and online, but more needs to be done. Enough is enough.

On Long Island, elected officials and police officers are working together to ensure that such behavior is not tolerated. A proposed bill would “deter violent acts against public safety professionals,” officials said.

A coalition including Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini, State Sen. John Brooks, Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron has discussed ways to thwart such attacks.

Meanwhile, State Assemblymen Mike LiPetri and Michael Reilly hosted a joint news conference and rally with police officers at City Hall in Manhattan on July 31. There they condemned the water-dousing incidents and announced legislation to establish a felony charge for such acts. The bill they seek would make it a Class E felony to spray or hurl water or any liquid, gel, gas or vapor at a police officer or first responder. The charge would be punishable by one to four years in prison.

Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, a former NYPD detective, also proposed stricter legislation to protect town enforcement officials, which he was set to introduce at the Town Board’s next meeting on Tuesday, after press time. A public hearing will likely be scheduled for Sept. 3.

Four people have been arrested in the Harlem and Brooklyn incidents and charged with criminal mischief and harassment, but police are still searching for more than a dozen suspects — including at least 14 in the Harlem attack.

In the Bronx incident, about a dozen men and women threw buckets of water at two female officers. Their deplorable acts were caught on video and damaged a police vest and cellphone.

Today it’s buckets; tomorrow it could be worse. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 69 police officers have died in the line of duty in the U.S. so far this year. Three of them were from New York. In 2018, 163 officers across the country died while serving their communities, 23 of them from New York.

Police officers leave their homes each day unsure if they will return. They are tasked with serving and protecting their communities, and while some officers abuse their authority, the majority simply do their best to enforce the law.

It’s unbelievable that we must say this in 2019, but we need to stand with our brave police officers. Without them, there would be chaos. Not only do they protect the community; they are also a part of it. They deserve our support and respect.

To that end, we support legislation that would bring stricter punishment to those who attack them, whether it’s with buckets of water or anything else. We lament the fact that such a measure is necessary.