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Transcript: Mayor Bill de Blasio Holds Media Availability Following Anti-Terror Tabletop

March 28, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good afternoon, everyone. I just observed some of the critical preparation that is done by the NYPD on a regular basis to continue our ongoing efforts to keep all New Yorkers safe, to prevent any acts of terrorism. And to be ready – God forbid that there was an attack here in the city – to be ready to contain it and limit it.

I want to say at the outset – this is a time when we’re all very reflective given the events we’ve seen around the world. I want to take a moment to honor the memory of two New Yorkers we lost abroad last week. Brother and sister, Alexander and Sascha Pinczowski, fell victim to the terror attacks at the Brussels airports – airport, excuse me. Our hearts go out – our prayers are with their family, and their loved ones, and their friends.

At the same time, we mourn for those lost in attacks in the last few days – very heinous attacks in Pakistan and in Iraq, which makes the point that these terror attacks are afflicting both Muslim nations and non-Muslim nations alike. The scourge of terrorism is being felt all over the world. And again this is a moment where the community of nations needs to stand together. And all nations, all cities need to work together to fight terror and to work in the spirit of cooperation to end the day when terrorism is such a part of our lives. I always emphasize the best way for each and every one of us to respond to these barbaric acts is by going about our lives, continuing to live in the manner of a democratic society and showing that the terrorists will not intimidate us.

In New York City, we know we are protected every day, 24/7, by the finest police force in the country. And we know that the cooperation between the NYPD and our federal and state partners is at the highest point it has ever been. Our close working relationship with the FBI and Homeland Security, in particular, help to keep us safe every day. And we work closely with our state partners as well.

The tabletop exercise that I just witnessed is part of a multi-faceted approach where we make sure that all of our different elements – the NYPD – are ready and coordinated in the event of any kind of incident. And it is important to remember – all New Yorkers should note with great appreciation – that over now 15 years, the NYPD has repeatedly prevented attacks and repeatedly foiled plots directed at this city or initiated in this city. And that means also that the NYPD has managed year after year to protect some of the biggest and most complex gatherings each year in this entire country – the UN General Assembly, the recent papal visit – to name just a few. Today’s exercise allowed us to continue testing our strategic and operational response in the event of a terror attack, including an attack that might take several forms simultaneously. And we understand that that is the dynamic we now are living with – the danger of an attack, an attack that might hit on many fronts simultaneously – but we have built our capacity to handle that exact eventuality. During an emergency, we’ll be dealing with rapidly changing dynamics. That’s why these drills are so important – to make sure that the lines of communication are strong and coordination is great.

Today’s exercise affirms that we are ready – here in this city, we are ready. The NYPD is ready to handle any and all situations. And this is just one of the things we do to protect people. Crucial was the creation of our 500-plus officer Critical Response Command – the largest, dedicated anti-terror force of any police force in the country. And with the additional technology we provided to all our officers – all 36,000 officers can be a part of both preventing terror and responding to it – God forbid it happens. Further, we have 2,000 additional officers coming online by the end of this year who will aid in all of our efforts.

So, these are sober and serious exercises, but they’re a reminder of just how prepared the NYPD is. Let me say a few words in Spanish before turning to Chief O’Neill.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish.]

With that, I’d like you to turn to – I’d like to turn to Chief Jimmy O’Neill, who led the exercise earlier. He’ll go over a summary of what took place. We’ll take questions on this exercise and on terrorism-related topics. Then we’ll take other police-related questions. And then I’ll stay back for other off-topic questions. Chief O’Neill.

Chief of Department James O’Neill, NYPD: Thanks, Mr. Mayor.

We just – it’s not finished yet they’re still upstairs working on it. We did a tabletop exercise and it’s a multiple location attacks similar to what happened in Paris and similar to what happened to Brussels. This is not our first one, we do tabletops all the time. This one was NYPD specific. We also do what is called red letter exercises. That’s more of an operational – at the lower levels. We’ll go to a precinct; we’ll hand the precinct sergeant a letter. And in that letter, we’ll give a scenario and then we’ll run through the drill in real time to make sure everybody knows what’s going on; what their responsibility is and how we’re going to make things better for the people of this great city.

So the objective of the tabletop is to sharpen our allocation and deployment skills in the event of an attack. And our goal was to raise the level of dialogue in the executive decision making process as we go through the exercise. So, this was for the department executives. If there is ever, God forbid, a multi- any sort of attack in New York City there is a plan that we have and we have to make sure that as people in these positions change they know what their duties and responsibilities are – and they’re very specific. So, the tabletop that we did today replicates what happened in Paris. There were active shooters, it’s a hostage situation, suicide bombers and multiple explosions. And it’s important that not only patrol knows what their function is but also what ESU, our Emergency Service Unit does. The Strategic Response Group, the Critical Response Command, other counterterrorism assets, the bomb squad, hostage negotiation, and [inaudible] know specifically what their responsibilities are. And that’s why we’ve waked through this exercise so carefully. And if it’s at multiple locations, in multiple boroughs there’s going to be different people in charge. Obviously, as the Chief of Operations I would be in overall command, but as the job spread out through the city we need our borough chiefs to take command of their locations also. And they have to work closely with counterterrorism, they have to work closely with the Detective Bureau to make sure that we get through this as safely as possible.

The locations we chose today were all chosen for their iconic value. And as we went through the exercise – it’s kind of stressful. It’s stressful for the executives. They weren’t given a lot of advance notice as a protocol that has to be [inaudible] and we put together some simulated radio transmissions. We played those transmissions, so the Communications division did a great job with it. And we turned to the Borough Commanders and said you’re sitting in your office what are you’re going to do. What’s your first step? How you’re going to make this better? And they had to outline, exactly, step-by-step what they were going to do and they all did a great job. We are constantly drilling. We have extensive plans to respond to any and all situations, but again as we saw in Paris, anything can happen. It’s not necessarily going to happen at 12 o’clock noon on a Monday. You know, it might happen eight o’clock at night. It might happen at eight o’clock in the morning. So, we have to make sure we have the contingencies set up for that. We made sure everyone knows their roles exactly, and again today was police specific but as we go further out in time we’re going to make sure that – and we’ve had other tabletops with other agencies – that we’ll incorporate all the other agencies in here because a lot of decisions have to be make as we go through this, and they’re not all NYPD decisions. Thanks.

Mayor: Okay, we will take questions, again, first on this tabletop exercise and terrorism-related questions. Go ahead, Dave.

Question: Mr. Mayor, and also Commissioner Bratton, I don’t know if you hear yesterday, but Donald Trump was commenting on the situation in Brussels and said he had predicted something like this would happen [inaudible] and indeed it did happen. And then he said if you think that’s bad, it’s going to get worse here in America, and specifically in New York. Is he right?

Mayor: No. I will just start. I found his comments negative and defeatist – and I think we should recognize the extraordinary work that is done by all of our men and women in uniform all over this country to protect us. And it’s no accident that we have been so well protected both here in New York City and all over the country since 9/11 – that is based on design and hard work, and greater and greater cooperation between our intelligence services and local law enforcement. So, I’m quite sick of Donald Trump denigrating the ability of this country to protect people.

Commissioner Bill Bratton, NYPD: As the events in Brussels continue to unfold, I think it’s become quite apparent – as admitted to by their senior officials – that this was their 9/11 moment. We had ours on 9/11, subsequent investigations into that event clearly showed that where the United States was pre-9/11 was not where it needed to be going into the 21st Century – that the lack of communication, sometimes required by law where the CIA could not communicate with the FBI for example – that all changed. And a lot of what the NYPD has become since 9/11 is reflective of that change. My predecessor, the mayor’s predecessor – Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Kelly – created, certainly, one of the most robust counterterrorism capabilities in the world.

We have expanded dramatically on that a different platform since 2014, as ISIS has become more prominent over al-Qaeda because of the concern about the social media inspired or directed or enabled type of attack. So that what is going on right now in Brussels, I think we’re learning that one, within their own police and intelligence services, they weren’t working closely together. Europe, despite no longer having physical borders countries, their various intelligence agencies are still operating often times as independent entities. So, the events in Europe are showing a system that is still [inaudible] shaped and formed by lack of coordination, cooperation between the nations. In the United States now we have a significant number of fusion centers which are all coordinated with each other. We have here the Joint Terrorism Task Force that works very closely with our 1,000-person counterterrorism intelligence group.

So, if you think of what we have in New York City, and some of the presidential candidates may not be even aware of this that we have, for example, 12 so-to-be 13 detectives assigned overseas – the creation of Commissioner Kelly. That has proven to be a phenomenal benefit to us in terms of relationships, getting information very quickly when an event does occur. Additionally, we have the 1,000-person existing counterterrorism intelligence entity. We have, on top of that, we have the Joint Terrorism Task Force that works very closely under FBI direction. We have reinforced over these last two years relationships with everybody – Port Authority, state police, federal agencies. So, we are seamless in both the respect we have for each other as well as our operational capabilities. And then in response to the ISIS issue – ISIL if you want to call them that – that what we keep reiterating, which you now see everywhere in the city – rather than pulling in precinct officers each day from all over the city, we know have between SRG, CRC, and emergency services almost 2,000 officers who are extraordinarily well trained and very well equipped to deal with it. So, we are as prepared as anybody can be to try to protect against through intelligence, and information gathering. And in the likelihood that there will be an attack – and there will be in some point in time in our lives, that’s the reality – we’re hoping it won’t be here. We’re working very hard to keep it from happening here.

But despite that hope, despite that premise, we need to be prepared. And so, today’s exercise was, what-if we had four simultaneous events with all of the things that ISIS has shown he capability of doing in the country’s largest city – would we be able to handle it, how would we be able to handle it – and, so that’s why we’re basically doing this exercise today.

Question: Commissioner Bratton you said that the [inaudible] needs to communicate more and European authorities in general need to communicate with [inaudible] more. Is the NYPD advising Belgians, European officials where they could improve and specifically –

Commissioner Bratton: No. In terms of – in fact the trip that Commissioner Miller was planning to take on April 4 to Paris, we put that back a little bit to give things time to kind of come together in Belgium because their case is still very active and unfolding each day. So, we don’t want to be over there kind of stepping on the investigation. So, we’re not there advising, we’re seeking to learn so that we can take that back here. If asked for advice, if asked for that type of collaboration, we’re more than willing to give it. But right now, they’re the ones on the field. They’re the ones, basically, seeing firsthand the effects of the current capabilities of ISIS, the directed attack by ISIS. So, we’re seeking to learn from them.

Question: Mr. Mayor [inaudible] new video for CNN that shows Paris attackers partying, smoking cigarettes, dancing in the club. That was eight months before the Paris attacks, showing how quickly somebody can be radicalized, how quickly the trip from hard-partying guy to terrorist killer [inaudible]. I wonder [inaudible]?

Mayor: I’ll start by saying I think that’s why the flow of information is so important, and keeping a deep connection to every community of this city. That’s why we made a number of decisions over the last few years to strengthen the dialogue with different communities, with community leaders, with clergy, with others who would be in a good position to let us know if there was a problem. And I think that’s something we have to continue to deepen.

Commissioner Bratton: That’s a great question in light of the current defamation of the Muslim community on the United States – that in the current political process – that how quickly somebody can become radicalized. We have known that for quite some time, and John Miller and his people are quite expert on it. And one of the reasons we are seeking to improve relationships wherever we can with the Muslim community, particularly the very large population we have in this city is – if you’re a Muslim family here and your child begins to become radicalized, and it can happen so quickly either through the inspired young person sitting in front of a computer, and then becoming enabled by getting into contact with one of the ISIS people sitting in Syria, pumping out through social media – or, as we’ve seen clearly in Brussels a directed attack – it can happen that quickly. What does a family do if they see their young person starting to become radicalized? Who do they go to? Chances they aren’t going to go to us if they don’t trust us. They’re not going to go to the government because they worry about how the government treats them, and if the government is giving off impressions that we think the whole population is a potential enemy, what does that say to them?

I was at dinner last night with my wife at our favorite restaurant, favorite waiter. He’s Moroccan, U. S. citizen, family’s here. His wife actually works sometimes in the restaurant checking coats. And he was talking about his eight-year-old daughter, watching what’s going on this past couple of weeks, and the daughter’s comments to the father was something – he was relaying this last night – “Daddy why do they hate us so much?” You know, what do you say to that when the rhetoric is all about hate of a whole group of people – in that case 800,000 people in this city that are Muslim? Are they going to work with us? Are they going to become what has happened in Europe, where they become very isolated?

That neighborhood in Brussels might as well be in another country, it’s so isolated from the rest of what goes on. Fortunately, we don’t have a great deal of that in New York, they assimilate very quickly. The recent population growth in this city was reported the other day – half-million new people in the city, 400,000 [inaudible] 400,000 of those 500,000 are immigrants from other countries. That’s New York City. And that’s the issue we have to deal with – how do we stop them from becoming radicalized. Well, if we can’t work with the communities, if they don’t trust us to work with them, then we’re not going to be able to stop them.

Question: [Inaudible]

Commissioner Bratton: I could just make a comment and then turn it back over to John Miller and the Mayor – but it really goes to this whole – the dog that won’t die, this Demographic Unit debate, if you will. That was not an investigatory entity when it was created. And it was down to two people when Commissioner Kelly left, and within a couple of weeks we did away with it because the function was no longer needed. And the idea here is to improve relationships as much as we can, going forward.

And it’s been referenced by some of the presidential candidates, referenced by some of the media in this town, that somehow or the other when that Demographics Unit went away, the fact that two detectives out of 1,000 are no longer performing those duties, that we are no longer investigating terrorism, that we were no longer doing what we do so well detecting terrorism and stopping – we are committed to that but we need to work with information from the community. That’s how we’ve always done it. Whether it was breaking down the mafia – it was getting informants in the mafia, it was getting people who were tired of the mafia and what they were doing in their neighborhoods, helping us out. So, that where the thrust we’ve been working on is to build relationships rather than tear them down. John or Mr. Mayor on this – Mayor you certainly talk a lot about this.

Deputy Commissioner John Miller, Intelligence and Counterterrorism, NYPD: So, you can’t separate these two things. One piece is community relations which is an uphill struggle because, as the commissioner has already framed, the NYPD historically has had issues in developing relationships within the Muslim community because of historic issues. So, one of the things moving forward within the new administration was to reach out, to bring in old friends, to bring in new friends, and to bring in critics – we did that in three separate groups, and then we did it in one big group where we had everybody together, and put everything on the table.

The beginning of your question which is how does it affect our surveillance and other things would be helped with a little framing. As the Commissioner stated there’s this miss-impression that there’s some kind of blanket surveillance going on. The way it actually works – by the rules set by the Handschu agreement – is individuals are identified based on reasonable suspicion, reason to investigate – a proper police investigative purpose. That is then then written up into an investigative statement, which is reviewed by a committee that includes NYPD attorneys, former federal prosecutors, investigators, intelligence analysts who weigh everything in that investigative statement. If it passes muster then it becomes an authorized investigation, and then – and only then – are tools like surveillance teams, human informants, outside sources, and in some rare cases undercover officers applied.

So there is an awful lot of rigor to this process and what we are trying to do is to walk and chew gum at the same time, which is to make sure we maintain what, I think, is a singular capability in terms of investigation and terrorism prevention while we build out what we already have a basis for – but we want to build on to improve a better relationship with the community. During the holiday, we had a couple of significant threats, and I was struck by the idea that a couple of those came over from the FBI, from the intelligence community and they were the subject of an awful lot of focus and time that we spent in secure, compartmented facilities. A couple others came in from members of the Muslim community where they told us things they saw, people they knew, things that were said, and it turned into significant investigations. I think that that was the beginning of a turning point where we were beginning to see new signs of trust from the community and I think frankly some of the comments that the Commissioner made at the end of last week helps to reinforce that relationship.

Question: [inaudible]

Deputy Commissioner Miller: It’s always something we think about. As you have duly noted, the time from flash to bang from radicalization to action is something that in the ISIS era we’ve seen shortened. It is something that then underscores the need for greater community involvement there, which requires greater community trust which is something that we’re working on both ends.

Mayor: Let me add two quick points, and then we’ll take other questions.

We’ve talked about the 900 officers – 900 Muslim officers in the NYPD – who protect us all. They are also role models for their community – particularly for young people in the community. They are people that parents and grandparents can go to in the community where they live if they have concerns.

I made a conscious decision to salute and hold up a couple examples of these good officers in my State of the City – in the video we did before it, and then the family that came forward to do the pledge of allegiance – to remind the people of this city that 900 officers who protect us every day are also part of the larger solution because they’re showing the community that the American dream is alive and well for them.

Conversely, what we’ve heard from Donald Trump, what we’ve heard from Ted Cruz suggests to so many Muslim Americans that they’re not going to be allowed to belong in this country – think about that for a minute. People come here from all over the world, every background, every faith with the goal of being here and being a part of this culture and achieving the opportunities that are available only here – and then to see people running for president suggesting that they should be segregated somehow and withheld from those opportunities, cut off from those opportunities while everyone else gets to enjoy them – to the Commissioner’s point about the difference between here and much of Western Europe, that would be the pathway to creating the tensions and divisions that exist in many of the Western European nations where Muslim residents and Muslim citizens don’t feel they could actually ever belong. The magic of America has been that people can belong, and it’s been reiterated in so many powerful ways, and now we have this horrible national discussion tearing against it and confirming ISIS’s propaganda.

This is the most troubling point. ISIS is trying to tell the Muslim world that America won’t accept Muslim people and here are two men running for president of the United States literally playing into ISIS’s hand, as if they’re working from an ISIS script, setting up an atmosphere of segregation and negativity. So that’s what we have to combat – but the good news in New York City is we’ve always believed in a welcome for all people, and I think the communities know that and feel that, and we’re going to do even more to make that clear.

Question: [inaudible]

Deputy Commissioner Miller: I think it changes a lot, because they’re going to be our first responders. If something happens at Lincoln Center it’s going to be 2-0 Charlie or 2-0 Adam, they’ll be the first ones there. There’s not – and we teach our people that they’re not to wait outside. As soon as there’s another couple of cops there, they’re to go in and go to the threats, so it changes their – the way they think about their job significantly.

Question: [inaudible] the last threats you were talking about over the holiday season. Was it last holiday season or over this Easter holiday?

Commissioner Miller: No. I can’t elaborate.

Mayor: Damn good answer.

Question: [inaudible] what language are you looking at, what exactly is on?

Mayor: I’ll let Jimmy speak to specifics, but I’ll say what was so striking, and I’ve seen this before in the tabletop exercises, they’re very dynamic. They don’t sugar coat it. It’s fast, and it’s tough, and a lot of difficult things are happening, a lot of difficult choices had to be made. That is the high standard NYPD holds itself to.

Chief O’Neill: So, what we did is we picked four locations. All of them iconic – I don’t want to go into where they are. We picked them for that reasons. They’re high volume, high traffic, tough to get to, tough to perceive, there’s so many people it’s tough to perceive exactly what’s going on, and that’s why we picked these locations. And I think it’s important for all our Borough Commanders and our bureau chiefs to think about this, and I think about it constantly. That we have to – this is a perishable skill, if you don’t think about this, if you don’t figure out what decisions you have to make if it does happen, then you’re going to be behind the 8 ball, and we don’t want that at all.

Question: Publicizing these tabletop exercises, is there a message you guys are trying to send to terrorists?

Commissioner Bratton: Certainly. That the idea is – I think we all understand that there’s going to be a continuing effort to inspire, to enable, or in some instances, the worst case scenario, direct – in other words, what’s going on in Europe right now – where people trained overseas, Syria and elsewhere, are sent here – very similar to 9/11. So the idea is, to the best of our ability, prevent it from happening here – certainly be capable of responding very quickly, an active shooter, bomb disabling etcetera, but also that – it discourages them from coming here for just that reason. Cause we do have – fortunately because we are so well supported both politically and financially, by both the local government and the federal government – and hopefully the federal government will continue that financial support – as well as the extraordinary collaboration we have with our colleagues and the alphabet agencies, the FBI and others, that the idea is this is a target that is not going to be easy to attack because they would love to do it here.  That’s the reality of it. It’s the news capital of the world – there’s 15 or 16 of your cameras right here for this typical news conference that we have in New York City. You don’t get this any place else in America for a typical news conference. They understand that, so that’s why they’d like to do it here. But for 15 years now that we’ve been able to stop them – those that we know of, the threats that we’re aware of – and who knows what other ones may have occurred that we’re not aware of. That’s the one that always worries us, the ones that we don’t know – that’s always the biggest fear.

Question: So following what happened in the Capitol today, there murmurs on social media about a partial evacuation of Times Square, was this part of the exercise or was it [inaudible]?

Commissioner Bratton: No, by coincidence I was up at Times Square today at lunch that as you know we’re going to be remodeling, rebuilding our Times Square substation, so we were up there today. No, there was no partial evacuation of Times Square, and it was not a part of the exercise.

One of the things we look at in these exercises – and Jimmy and his people put together a phenomenal set of scenarios today is – and the Mayor commented on this – about public awareness. What if we want to shut down the subway lines? They could be shut down by order, or they could be self-activated. The public might want to stay out of the subway because of concern of additional bombs in the subway if that’s where some of them have gone off. Similarly, schools – we’ve got a million kids in schools. If something were to happen day time, how do you get parents in contact with their kids, particularly if the public transportation system shuts down? The egress of vehicles out of the city – particularly if the attacks in Manhattan or Brooklyn or the Bronx, there’s so many different things that the time to have answers is not when it’s happening, but well before so you already have the answers to whatever might happen.

Deputy Commissioner Miller: Just a follow up on your specific question. While we were doing this exercise, which was to test command and control, incident command, there was a notional attack on a major concert venue on the financial sector, on another large public gathering place, the Blackberrys were buzzing with shots fired at the Capitol, reports of a fence jumper at the White House, and an explosive detection canine dog in Times Square that had alerted on a package inside a trashcan that required a bomb squad response and the blocking of a perimeter to resolve that. So as they say life imitates art – life imitates exercise, and the whole process of dealing with multiple crises on paper, in the tabletop, while multiple crises were unfolding outside was part of the learning experience.

Question: You said that you were looking at iconic locations but are we seeing from Europe that they are not always picking iconic locations? They want to show that they can go anywhere. So how does that apply to any neighborhood around the city?

Chief O’Neill: That’s an excellent question. So part of the exercise is that as these events were unfolding we had to make sure we had sufficient personal in place at all the other locations throughout the city to make sure there wasn’t a massive self-deployment to one or two or three locations. It’s part of the exercise.

Question: From today’s tabletop could you give us any sense of some of the things that the city is doing or looked at doing today in the tabletop that could be endangered by budget cuts that have been proposed in the federal levels?

Commissioner Miller: In the tabletop today because we had multiple attacks going on at multiple different kinds of venues requiring multiple responses. One heavily involved a response from the bomb squad because of multiple suspicious packages. Two others involved active shooters, suicide bombers. All of this was happening at once. On the average, New York City gets in the vicinity of $180 million dollars of Urban Area Security funds every year. The proposed executive budget that’s been sent to Congress now would cut that in half to $90 million dollars. One of our systems, which operates in real-time and builds every year. The Domain Awareness System, which is the core of the technical background of our counterterrorism efforts, in of itself costs $50 million a year as it continues to grow and maintains and sends data in real-time. So that would crunch down money that is spent on critical overtime for counterterrorism assets, that would disable our ability to continue to buy and maintain the specialized equipment that would have come into to play today during that exercise. Those cuts, if they were carried out as proposed, would simply be devastating and to contemplate that as a government at a time when the world events are telling you this problem is increasing in speed, cadence, and seriousness would be irresponsible.

Question: Mr. Mayor, your message to the Muslim communities has been one of inclusion. What kind of feedback are you getting from the community in light of what you have been saying?

Mayor: I think the community appreciates the fact that leadership here in New York City is standing up for them and saying that they belong. They are Americans too and they are respected in this city, embraced in this city – part of what makes New York City great. So that should be the message everywhere in the county. You think about the logic. If you don’t want see young people radicalized to Marsha’s question – if you don’t want to see young people radicalized, treat them with respect. Treat them like they are part of this society. Don’t push them out of this society.

So the answer to your question is I think there has been an appreciation for the fact that we are not allowing some of this horrible national rhetoric to dictate the reality here. We are going to stand up for the values of New York City, which are values of respect and inclusion for every kind of person.

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Miller: Times Square was an alert by a canine detection dog that is fielded by one of the private security entities there. The dog alerted multiple times on one place. Bomb squad responded. They used their render safe procedures with the proper distances and determined that there was no threat. It was inside a trash can, they looked iniside and whatever the dog was alerting on, it wasn’t an explosive. 

Question: A police officer shot a pit-bull released on video. It appeared that the officer was not being seriously threatened that’s what appeared. Can you talk to us about the investigation? And also, the issue of pepper sprays. I know some of the officers were getting more enhanced pepper spray.

Commissioner Bratton: Right the issues referred to is a officer’s responding to a domestic violence call. In the adjacent apartment, the woman in the apartment opened the door and a dog came out – about a 50 pound pitbull.  That the two officers, one of them reacted by pulling his firearm. The dog kept coming toward him and he ended up shooting the dog one time. So the question has come up, well, couldn’t they have used pepper spray? Did he need to shoot at all? That will be part of the shooting review investigation. I’ve seen the video myself or portions of it. So we always, in any shooting incident – last year we had I think what 65 incidents including 18 involving dogs. One of the reasons that we have increased the potency of our pepper spray significantly was the old spray would not in fact disable a dog. It wasn‘t potent enough. The new spray would.

But, in all circumstances we have to leave it to the officer’s understanding of what’s happening at the scene as to what piece of equipment he might use – Taser, pepper spray, firearm. This instance he used the firearm, so now it’s part of the investigation.  He’ll have to justify what was going through his mind at that particular time.

Question: Over the weekend a transgender woman was raped inside a bathroom at the Stonewall Inn. I was wondering if there’s any update on that, and Mayor if you can respond to that since you headline Gender Equity NYC?

Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, NYPD: Good afternoon, the Special Victims Unit response to that was they were able to grab some video. It’s probative. We haven’t identified, we have a very good image of that person and we are moving forward with the case now. That’s all I want to say at this time. But the case is going well. People inside the Stonewall know him and we’ll go from there. Hopefully we will get him identified in the next coming days.   

Mayor: Look it’s a very disturbing incident taking place in a site that is very important historically and where something good happened in terms of creating more opportunity for people to live their lives – to see a violent incident like this is very, very troubling. But, I have confidence based on the information that Chief Boyce just indicated that we will apprehend this individual.

Question: Senator Charles Barron made a comment last week. Commissioner you said you might look at those as possibly inciting violence or riots. I just wanted to know if there was any formal inquiry based on those reports. Secondly, there was a postal worker who was arrested recently in a controversial dispute that was on camera. What does that incident say about training that police have received recently about de-escalation? 

Commissioner Bratton: The first one regarding Assemblyman Barron, I thought my reaction to them, I was very disappointed that any elected official in this city or this state would get to the line where he was at great risk of crossing it, where he would be pretty close to inciting violence. So the cautionary warning that I extended to him was those who play with matches are going to be very careful before they start a fire. And that type of language is not appropriate at any time from any elected official. So again, we will watch as we go forward – as these matters go forward – in hope that he keeps his language in check. And that’s my perspective as Commissioner.

Secondly, the issue you’re referring to the 7-1 Precinct incident involving four plainclothes officers including a lieutenant in which an arrest was made of a postal worker on duty driving a postal vehicle. I’ve had the opportunity to review that case last week personally, reviewed the videos. You have access to a cell phone video that we have other videos that give a much larger and clearer interpretation of what occurred there. I have several very significant concerns that I’ve talked with Chief O’Neill about and Chief Gomez, Chief of Patrol. One, our instructions are that the Conditions officers do not work in plain clothes. All four of these people including the Lieutenant were in street clothes. Not in uniform. That’s in direct violation of our patrol guide. So we will be investigating that element of it. I was not happy with some of the behavior I saw on that video or videos and so pending the Internal Affairs investigation which is going forward including interrogations of all four officers. The Lieutenant and the three officers, those officers have been taken out of any of those specialized assignments until they are questioned and until the Internal Affairs Investigation goes forward. As part of that investigation they will also be speaking to one of the complainant, the individual that was arrested, as well as the many witnesses that are evident on that video. We had a team there, this incident occurred a little over a week ago, so we had a team there a week after the event at the exact time to see if the same people that were on the video might be at that location at that time. So there’s a full Internal Affairs investigation fully involved with it. And on initial review of the video I am not pleased with what I saw the actions of our officers. But, Internal Affairs will make a more complete report to me once their interviews are completed as their investigation goes forward.

Question: There was a shooting on Friday and reports of a young man who was hit in the head and he succumbed to it I think today. What’s the status of that investigation? Did you determine what the  motive of the shooting was? Do you have any suspects?

Chief Boyce: I believe you are talking about the shooting at the 2-3 Precinct outside of the Jefferson Houses. We have a young man that is a 16-year-old male Juwan Tavarez was walking down Third Avenue with a bunch of other friends, about nine other kids, Friday afternoon just after 4:30. They saw some girls standing outside in front of the Jefferson Houses and began to engage them, and actually knew the girls as well. So while they are standing there talking to the girls, all these fellas that came down are from the Wagner Houses, which is directly up the street. There had been problems before between Wagner and Jefferson so we are looking at this right now as a possible gang issue. Not saying this young male was part of that. He was with a group. We have a singular shooter fires four times from inside Jefferson Houses under scaffolding. It’s kind of tough to see with some white construction mesh covering him.  So he was struck one time in the head. We do not believe he was specifically targeted rather than the whole group was. Right now we are going forward. We sent Crime Stoppers out all weekend long trying to get some information and the public is responding. We have some definitely very strong leads and all of which are describing this possible gang issue with them. This young man passed away this past Sunday at Harlem Hospital, Sunday afternoon. That’s where we are with the investigation right now.

Question: [Inaudible]

Chief Boyce: Yes, Mr. Cooley was found in the 19th Precinct. He was there for several days without anybody knowing he passed. Right now we’re in an active investigation. It is not deemed a homicide yet [inaudible]. But we are looking at it as it will be a homicide. We recovered some specific forensic information, who gave us a lead into a person of interest that we’re looking at right now. That’s all I really want to say at this point.

Mayor: Okay, other topics.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: There’s been an investigation, I know, by the Attorney General’s Office and Department of Investigation. From what I’ve heard so far, that firm has been addressed very vigorously. The CEO has been removed and we are working now to take steps to get resources back from that company. Yes?

Question: Mr. Mayor, the Working Families Party is calling for a debate in the Democratic primary in New York. I’m wondering if you think a debate here ahead of the April 19 primary would benefit New Yorkers?

Mayor: I’ll leave it to the candidates to decide. I think, in general, the debates have been engaging for the public, so I certainly am a fan of them. But it’s up to the candidates to decide.

Question: Mr. Mayor, North Carolina just enacted an anti-LGBT law that severely limits civil rights for all groups actually. Will you ban City travel there, as you once did with Indiana and then repealed it after they repealed their law? And would you extend that to Georgia if the legislature overrides the veto of Governor Deal today of a similar bill? And just finally, is the City ensuring that its own religious contractors, including the new school safety officers, are not discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, etcetera?

Mayor: On the questions related to North Carolina and Georgia, yes we’ve initiated a non-essential travel ban for North Carolina as of today. And in the event that the governor’s veto in Georgia is overwritten we will do so for Georgia as well. I think it’s quite clear that voices of conscience all over the country are expressing outrage at these decisions, which are reinstituting discrimination against the LGBT community. And it’s also quite clear that a lot of the corporate sector is making clear that it will not participate in states that have such laws. So, my hope is that both these states will relent, but we certainly are not going to have any non-essential travel to those states if these laws do continue in effect. In terms of any entities that we do business with, we are always looking to make sure that there are no instances of discrimination. We have a very vigorous Human Rights Commission as you know. And so that’s something we’re constantly looking for any complaints or concerns about. Yes, Jen?

Question: Would you return the campaign donations to this [inaudible] the former non-profit?

Mayor: Right.

Question: [Inaudible] Can you just say generally what are your thoughts are on what happened?

Mayor: Yes, I’m very unhappy about this situation. It should not have happened. We’re now reviewing all our practices to make sure that something like this does not happen again. From what we know so far, we were lied to. And the notion was that we were expecting a senior facility and instead got something very, very different. But that also means that we need to tighten up our rules and our approaches to inhibit any company who would do that kind of thing. So I’m not happy. I’ve called for a real thorough investigation. And whatever changes in our approach we need to take.

Question: Lied to by a [inaudible]?

Mayor: Say it again.

Question: Who lied to the city?

Mayor: I’m not sure that’s the name of the company, but the company involved ultimately did private housing when they said they were going to do a nursing home. That’s who I’m saying lied to us. 

Question: Mr. Mayor, when did you first learn of the problem that existed at this Rivington House? Was it with the publication of the article last week?

Mayor: When it became public.

Question: So your administration though learned of it earlier. Are you disturbed that the communication was not such that the Department of Citywide Administrative Services would have let you know that [inaudible] had concerns enough that they would stop [inaudible]?

Mayor: Yes, I don’t think it was handled right, there’s no two ways about it. It should not have happened to begin with. We unfortunately cannot be too trusting with any company that seeks to make a profit and this just points out that the standards, some that we’ve inherited, but I’m sure things that we’ve worked on since we’ve got here are just not sufficient. And we should not be trusting in these situations. We need real guarantees that a company will not basically flip a property and use it for private gain when they made a commitment to some public usage. So, I’m not happy about it – that it happened. I’m not happy about the fact that I didn’t hear about it in advance before it became public. And we are looking now to see what actions we can take to penalize this company, and again, any policy changes that would inhibit this in the future.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Yes.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I think, look, we’ve become a very important state in this process. You’re right, there’s been times when we haven’t been in the primaries for sure, nor in the general election. So, it’s an important moment for New York. And my advice is to New York voters – to get out and get involved. And particularly to reject the negative and divisive rhetoric of both Trump and Cruz. So, New York can play a role in addressing the problem that we talked about earlier – that our national political discourse is sending a message of hate around this country and around the world and has to be stopped. And New York would be a good place to begin the process of stopping it.

Question: Following up on that, Hillary’s chief strategist [inaudible] says Bernie Sanders will be campaigning as a Brooklynite and that Hillary Clinton will be campaigning like a Senator [inaudible].

Mayor: I assume the phrase campaigning like a Brooklynite is a compliment. So, I don’t know where Joel Benenson is from and I don’t know what he meant, but I think Brooklyn – being one of the admired places in the country right now, and the culture of Brooklyn being associated with, you know, spirit and spunk and energy and resolve. I think that’s a compliment.

Question: [Inaudible] pick up on the Rivington housing [inaudible] DCAS –

Mayor: Yes.

Question: – January, this all happened [inaudible]. Are you concerned that you didn’t learn about this, and are you [inaudible] – 

Mayor: The new Commissioner at DCAS, Lisette Camilo, I think is exemplary. She did a wonderful job as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Contracts, and I think she’s a perfect person to fix whatever’s been broken at DCAS.

Question: [inaudible] I was wondering if you give a statement regarding that.

Mayor: We’ve been very committed to this goal – first, to end chronic veteran’s homelessness. This was the goal that President Obama set for cities all around the country. I think it was a really important act on his part. No president had ever done that before. We reached that goal last year, but there are still veterans who are homeless at times, not chronically all the time but at any time is not acceptable. So, we continue to work to find more and more permanent homes for our veterans. And the Mayor’s Fund is playing a crucial role bringing in private donations. They’re going to help us put together the permanent housing for our veterans. So, I want to encourage all New Yorkers who care about our veterans; who feel as I do that anyone who served us overseas should not come back home and end up homeless donate to this effort at the Mayor’s Fund so we can find homes for these veterans. And I would also like to note that employers should constantly look for every opportunity to hire veterans because housing is one piece of the equation, but our veterans need good jobs as well.


Question: [Inaudible] What is your latest sense of how New York City interests are faring? And what are your top one or two concerns about what’s going on?

Mayor: Well look, there have been voices speaking out since February saying that the city should not suffer cutbacks when it comes to CUNY and when it comes to Medicaid. We shouldn’t have our affordable housing efforts undermined by needless bureaucracy. We should get more support in our efforts to end homelessness. These issues have been talked about now for months and months. This is supposed to be one of the decision days. What I can tell you for sure – I spoke to Speaker Heastie today and yesterday. He has – and the Assembly has consistently supported the interest of New York City and fought hard to make sure that there would be no cuts to our budget in terms of CUNY; in terms of Medicaid; there would be nothing that would stand in the way of our efforts to create affordable housing. The Assembly and its one house bill went out of its way to say the State had to do more to help us in dealing with homelessness. So, the Assembly has been very consistent. I spoke to the Governor this morning and I still don’t have real answers. There’s no budget language. There is no confirmation or guarantees related to CUNY, related to Medicaid or any of these other issues. And the things I talked about – back in February when I gave my budget testimony in Albany – I talked about the fact that the State was going to take away some of our sales tax revenue in a way that we thought was arbitrary and unfair. Nothing has been resolved on that front. So, I want to see action and I want to see real language that we can take to the bank. Right now – you know – the same reality as the day after the Governor’s State of the State is true. I said – he said none of this would cost New York City a penny, I said I would hold him to it – take him at his word, but hold him to it. And I’m still going to hold him to it because as of this moment we have no guarantees and we need them. The people of New York City need those guarantees.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I think it was inappropriate. And I think elected officials are supposed to encourage peace and dialogue and a way for people to work out problems, and never suggest that violence is likely.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: No, I have not been. Yes?

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I want to see ethics reform in Albany. I, for a long time, believed in things like public financing of elections and, obviously, a lot more disclosure. And that’s something that has to happen; whether it happens now or whether it happens in the legislative session is less important to me than the fact that it needs to happen. Yes?

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: No, nothing yet – nothing yet. We’ll let you know though. Thanks, everyone.


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