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Read the Words of Top Cops Defending NYPD Response to Racial Justice Protests

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea speaks at a One Police Plaza press conference about the department’s response to a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, March 25, 2021.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The city Department of Investigation took the unusual step Wednesday of posting transcripts of interviews with Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and another top cop conducted during an examination of the NYPD’s response to last year’s racial justice protests.

The lengthy interrogations of Shea and then-Chief of Department Terence Monahan were first disclosed Tuesday by THE CITY, which obtained them via the state Freedom of Information Law.

DOI traditionally does not make interviews public. After THE CITY published a story about the contents of the transcripts, DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett ordered them posted on the agency’s website.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, both the Shea transcript and the Monahan transcript were available on the same page with the 115-page report DOI released in December criticizing the NYPD’s protest response. It’s believed to be the first time DOI has taken the additional step of revealing interviews performed as part of a major investigation.

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan speaks at a news conference about the spread of COVID-19, March 2, 2020.
Then-NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan speaks at a news conference about the spread of COVID-19, March 2, 2020.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

DOI investigators interviewed Shea in November and Monahan in October as the agency took a deep-dive review of the NYPD’s handling of the mass protests that erupted across the city last summer after a Minneapolis cop murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Investigators ultimately determined that the NYPD mishandled its response to the demonstrations, finding that there was no consistent coordination plan and that poorly trained cops in many cases overreacted — trapping, arresting and sometimes beating protesters without justification.

A defensive Shea told DOI interviewers that cops did a “phenomenal job” and blamed “outside agitators’’ for any violence. He said cops were justified in several incidents that were criticized, including a confrontation in which cops drove vehicles into a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn.

His top chief, Monahan, now a senior advisor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said he’d never heard the term “kettling” — trapping and then immediately arresting protesters — even though the tactic has been slammed by NYPD critics for years. Monahan was cited for employing kettling during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Mayor’s Mea Culpa

After DOI issued its report, which did not include interview transcripts, de Blasio apologized for the way the NYPD handled the demonstrations.

On May 10, DOI Assistant General Counsel Christopher Tellet released the transcripts to THE CITY and noted the unusual move.

“DOI makes every effort to safeguard the confidentiality of witnesses to ensure that witnesses speak with full and open candor, to protect a witness that chooses to cooperate with DOI’s inquiries, to protect the identities of complainants, and to ensure that allegations are not levied against an individual who has not had the opportunity to face such allegations in a fair trial or impartial adjudication,” Tellet wrote.

Protesters kneel along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn during protests against the police-involved killing of George Floyd, June 2, 2020.
Protesters kneel along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn during racial justice protests, June 2, 2020.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

However, agency officials concluded that the interviews with Shea and Monahan — then the top two executives in the Police Department — were different, starting with the mayor’s order to DOI to conduct the examination.

“The interviews [with Shea and Monahan] were compelled and that both interviewees were not interviewed solely in their personal capacity but rather primarily as representatives of the New York City Police Department,” Tellet wrote.

Noting that Shea and Monahan were represented by NYPD lawyers — not their own counsel — DOI “concluded that most, if not all, statements made by these two interviewees represented the testimony of an agency rather than the statements of individuals.”

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