A New York City police union wants people to put down their cameras and help officers with arrests rather than film them — and it plans to offer $500 to every person who does.
“Individuals are more concerned 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,” Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins told Patch.
“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. This has got to stop, and hopefully this program will incentivize good Samaritans to do the right thing,” he told the New York Post.
The union has a website live now where anyone can nominate a person to receive the reward, and Mullins told amNewYork the program is effective immediately.
A panel will decide whether someone is eligible for the reward, union officials told ABC 7.
But not everyone is happy about the idea — including the New York Police Department.
“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 told CBS New York and other news outlets in a statement
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, another police union, also told CBS New York they were opposed to the idea, according to the station.
Mullins criticized the department and the city government in a news release, blaming a “climate of passivity from the mayoral administration and the NYPD hierarchy” for pushing the union to offer the reward program.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to comment to amNewYork.
There is a question of legal liability if a bystander becomes involved and somebody is injured, which New York state senator Martin Golden told the New York Post he was working on addressing.
“The current good Samaritan law does not protect citizens who assist first responders. It is my intent to introduce legislation in the Senate that corrects this shortcoming,” Golden told the paper.
Mullins said in a news release that he was “by no means” asking ordinary citizens to become vigilante crime fighters.
“We don’t want civilians to come out and start beating people with bats,” Mullins told Patch. “We want you to help restrain and follow the direction of an officer that’s out there that says, ‘Hold him down, get his hand, I’m trying to cuff him.’”
On social media, some commenters thought the proposal was a terrible idea that would lead to police brutality and vigilantism. Others thought it was something they would consider.