NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Monday that people captured on video appearing to interfere with arrests are making it harder to apprehend suspects and should stop meddling with police officers doing their jobs.
"There is no denying on the videos which have surfaced . . . what is seen is interference on the part of onlookers -- maybe relatives and friends, people in general -- who shouldn't be interfering," said Bratton. "That interference certainly exacerbates the situation, raising the officers' tension . . . that is of concern."
Bratton said officers must act constitutionally but people have an obligation to submit to an arrest without the interference of onlookers, as happened recently in some encounters caught on video.
Speaking with reporters at City Hall, Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to back off their emphasis on quality-of-life offenses, noting that such enforcement action could be left to the discretion of police officers and didn't always require an arrest.
De Blasio, who was speaking for the first time at City Hall since his return Sunday from a vacation in Italy, indicated he hoped that cooperation and trust between police and the public would reduce cases of interference with arrests.
Bratton was reacting to videos posted on the Internet in recent days showing police officers in fights and tussles with suspects. In one case an onlooker is heard berating cops about their lack of probable cause to make a marijuana arrest while another person appears close to getting physically involved in the struggle the officers were having with the suspect.
Bratton didn't address the video of the confrontation between Eric Garner, 35, of Staten Island, and officers. Garner collapsed and died on July 17 after officers used an apparent unauthorized choke hold.
Questioned about the Garner case, de Blasio said that if federal officials became involved, the city would cooperate. The case is under investigation by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan. Monday, a spokesman for Donovan said his staff met with Garner's family but wouldn't elaborate.
Asked if race was a factor in the Garner case, de Blasio would only say generally that in the last decade race was an issue in law enforcement, particularly with stop and frisk and racial-profiling allegations.
De Blasio reiterated what Bratton has said earlier: Choke holds are unauthorized in the NYPD. But while there have been numerous complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board about officers using choke holds, de Blasio noted that most weren't substantiated.
"Some complaints are honest and real. Some are specious," said de Blasio, who hoped a revitalized review board under its new head Richard Emery would help build trust.