By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
Attorney General Letitia James refuted claims that the NYPD was not invited to speak during her two-day-long hearing on interactions between police and the public during the state’s weeks-long George Floyd protests.
“I understand that the NYPD is telling the press that they were not formally invited to this hearing. I verified with my staff that they were in fact invited,” James said during the Zoom hearing.
On June 10, the commanding officer of the NYPD Legal Bureau — the liaison between the Attorney General’s office and the NYPD — was notified of the hearing via email, according to James.
“I directed my staff to invite the NYPD because I wanted to hear from all sides and each and every day I have inquired as to whether or not they have responded,” James said.
James said that a written public notice was sent to the NYPD again at 10:10 Thursday, June 11 in an email which was shared with Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Ernest F. Hart and the director of internal governmental affairs on Monday, June 15.
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 18, James said the department was notified again of the hearing by the commanding officer of the legal bureau and were reminded that the public expected their participation. The attorney general said that Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea were invited to attend “multiple times” via email and phone.
James paused to make the announcement after hours of testimony detailing excessive force from the NYPD on peaceful protesters.
During the Zoom hearing, James again invited both de Blasio and Shea to speak about what they witnessed during protests.
“I will accommodate them at any point. Both of these gentlemen have my personal cell phone number and the personal cell of my chief of staff. They could call us at this moment and we will interrupt this hearing,” said James.
Neither the mayor nor Commissioner Shea joined the hearing after James’ final invitation.
” Come and testify because the general public expects you to and we could include your perspective as part of this investigation and we want a fair and balanced investigation,” James said.
Thursday’s hearing is part of a larger investigation by the attorney general into police conduct during the now weeks-long protests against police brutality.
“While this administration has fundamentally changed the way the city is policed, there is more work to do to heal historic wounds. That’s why we are diverting funds to under-served communities, establishing a community ambassadors program within the NYPD, disbanding the anti-crime unit, releasing more body camera footage and making the disciplinary system more transparent,” de Blasio said in an emailed statement to amNY when questioned on why he opted out of the hearing.
“We are fully complying with the Attorney General’s investigation to get to the truth of what happened at the protests, and will review the comments made by the public to help deepen our reforms. This is only the beginning, and we will never stop fighting to make New York a fairer city,” he added.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to questions from amNY on why Shea skipped the two-day long hearing.