The fallout from the NYPD no-showing Wednesday’s City Council hearing regarding the department’s controversial Strategic Response Group (SRG) continued to unravel Sunday.
The hearing focused on the role the unit played during the George Floyd protests and saw testimony that called for the unit to be disbanded, citing aggressive and violent responses during the 2020 demonstrations. However, that testimony remained one-sided since NYPD reps did not show up to tell their side of the story, which made lawmakers fume with anger and even threatened to pull funding.
That fury seemingly has not subsided, with Council member Tiffany Cabán penning an enraged message in her email newsletter. Cabán released the email to her constituents on March 5 in which she took the police department to task for failing to appear at City Hall a few days earlier.
“Normally, my colleagues and I work with advocates and directly impacted communities to devise a solid series of specific, detailed questions, and the NYPD offers evasive half-answers. If that’s what we thought would happen Wednesday morning, it turns out we were too optimistic by half. Instead, the NYPD didn’t show up at all,” Cabán wrote. “The topic of the hearing was supposed to be the department’s so-called “Strategic Response Group” (SRG). Initially intended to be a 300-member counter-terrorism unit, the SRG now has over 800 members and engages in all manner of dubious activity, from cracking down on protests to evicting tent cities.”
However, in a sit-down interview NYPD top cop Keechant Sewell said that police reps could not attend the hearing due to having signed a confidentiality agreement, prohibiting the department from speaking on the matter, something she says that City Council had been informed about prior.
“We are involved in mediation in that case, and we signed a confidentiality agreement. So, we would not be able to speak about the facts of that case. We let the City Council know that well in advance. That hearing was rescheduled twice, they went forward with it—which is absolutely their right to do so. We let them know that we would not be able to be present for that. But we did submit written testimony,” Commissioner Sewell said.
When pressed if the department could have spoken about SRG in generalities and not specifics, Sewell stated that law enforcement is not able to speak on the matter whatsoever.
“We are not permitted to talk about any of the aspects of that case during negotiation. But we do look forward to being able to do that in the future when it’s appropriate,” Sewell said.
Cabán disregarded this, calling the exclamation “nonsense” and even a “lie.”
“How did they explain their absence? At first, they told us that, on the advice of counsel, they were unable to answer any questions. As a trial attorney, I can tell you, that is complete nonsense. Then their explanation shifted: actually, they said, a judge had imposed a gag order on them. As Hell Gate reported the following day, that too was a flagrant lie,” Cabán wrote.
With the NYPD being ordered to pay out $21,500 individually to some 300 protesters for a June 4, 2020 clash in the Bronx, Cabán accused the police of simply not wanting to be reprimanded in public.
“The department simply didn’t want to face the music,” Cabán wrote.