NEW YORK — The city's police union is offering civilians a $500 reward if they help officers make a tough arrest.
The new program was announced Tuesday by the Sergeants Benevolent Association, which called on bystanders to stop filming cops and help them in the middle of an arrest instead.
“Far too often we see police officers engaged in violent struggles with perpetrators while members of the public stand by and take videos of the incident with their cell phone cameras,” police union president Ed Mullins said in a news release. “This has got to stop, and hopefully this program will incentivize Good Samaritans to do the right thing.”
The police union is working with Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) to incentivize civilians to assist law enforcement personnel engaged in violent confrontations with those resisting arrest, according to the SBA.
But there is concern that the offer could do more hard than good. So far, the police department is against the idea proposed by the officers' union.
“The NYPD encourages people to support their cops by calling 911. The department doesn’t want to see people put in harm’s way unnecessarily to collect a reward,” the department said in a statement.
However, during a news conference Tuesday, union head Mullins didn't mince words as he called out NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill and other political leaders.
He said since the 2014 death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, at the hands of a police officer, there has been a hands-off policy of policing handed down across the country.
"The impact of what has occurred over this time has created weak leadership, has created weak elected officials, weak police commissioners and weak chiefs," Mullins said.
He said the policies have had an impact on criminals and the rest of the public, subjecting officers to verbal abuse that ends up flaunted on social media. In other situations, onlookers standby recording while a crime in progress.
"What was occurring is individuals are more concerns about capturing what's on tape rather than get involved and maybe help save someone's life or maybe help keep a criminal from escaping," Mullins said.
So now, the SBA is offering a reward to civilians who help officers in the middle of tense arrests. But he said he's not calling for vigilant justice, pointing to an instance in Utah where an alleged criminal was tackled to the ground by a civilian after he escaped the grasp of a police officer.
Posters and trucks throughout the five boroughs will spread awareness of the offer.
Still, the NYPD urges caution.