NEW YORK (CNN) — For the second time this summer, a New York City police officer has been stripped of his badge and gun after video surfaced showing what community leaders call a heavy-handed police response.
The latest incident to highlight lingering tension with the nation’s largest police force occurred Sunday when a handful of officers attempted to disperse a group of vendors in order to reopen traffic after the conclusion of a Brooklyn street fair.
In a video taken by an onlooker and posted to Facebook, words are exchanged and officers attempt to arrest a man. A woman intervenes and pushing and shoving ensues. Later, once officers have the young man on the ground, one officer punches him while another kicks him in the back.
The scene grows tense, with witnesses taking video of the pushing and shoving and civilians tussling with officers.
Five people were arrested on charges ranging from second-degree assault to resisting arrest to obstruction of government administration, police said.
“What we see here is people get assaulted, get hurt and the same thing goes without any sort of accountability,” Brooklyn resident Dennis Flores told CNN affiliate NY1 News. “It keeps repeating itself.”
On Wednesday, Police Commissioner William Bratton said the unidentified officer seen in the video kicking the man has been relieved of his badge and gun pending an internal affairs investigation.
“I was very concerned with a video that was taken and the actions of one of our officers who was scene kicking an individual,” Bratton told reporters. “As best (as) I can tell — looking at that video — (it) seemed unprovoked. That officer has been suspended… We will treat those types of actions very seriously.”
The tactics of the NYPD came under fire after the July 17 death of Eric Garner, 43. He died after being placed in a chokehold by an officer during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island. The incident, which was captured on video, led to anti-police demonstrations.
The New York Medical Examiner’s Officer last month ruled his death a homicide.
During the encounter, Garner raised both hands in the air and told the officers not to touch him. Seconds later, a video shows an officer behind him grab the 350-pound man in a choke hold and pull him to the sidewalk, rolling him onto his stomach.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Garner said repeatedly, his cries muffled into the pavement.
The cause of Garner’s death was “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” said Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.
Acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were listed as contributing factors in a controversial death that sparked calls for a federal investigation.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen on the video choking Garner, was put on modified assignment and stripped of his badge and gun amid the investigation, the New York Police Department said. A second police officer was placed on desk duty. The chokehold is prohibited by the NYPD.
Two EMTs and two paramedics were suspended without pay, according to Erika Hellstrom, vice president of development at Richmond University Medical Center.
After Sunday’s confrontation between police and street vendors in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park section, officials wrote Bratton to demand a “broader conversation” about relations with the community.
“We find the physical aggression that is depicted in witness videos disturbing,” City Council member Carlos Menchaca wrote in a letter with Rep. Nydia Velasquez of New York. “In the last few months, we have seen far too many signs of a deeply strained relationship between the police and our Sunset Park neighborhood… We are community of immigrants that has historically felt isolated from the police. We are a community that has feared the use of excessive force by the NYPD.”
Earlier this month, Bratton announced that all NYPD officers will undergo a three-day retraining period on the proper use of force when engaging a suspect.
The training will focus on how officers can avoid physical confrontations when talking to and restraining suspects, as well as how to safely take them into custody without bringing harm to either the individual or the officer. Officers will also undergo a leadership and cultural sensitivity workshop.
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