What Were Sesay’s Options?

Despite no one being hurt, and no complaint being made to the New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, Detective Junior Sesay was tried for his actions on May 30, 2020 when his police SUV was surrounded by a mob of Black Lives Matter protesters. The protesters figured that if they surrounded his RMP, climbed atop it, he would be unable to move based upon the general rule that it would be illegal for the detective to harm the protesters by driving into and through them. In the minds of the mob, they owned the cop. In the mind of the cop, he was not about to let them own him.

As it turned out, this “one cool trick” of putting one’s life at risk by blocking the police SUV didn’t work. Sesay drove and now he was being interrogated by the CCRB prosecutor as to why he would risk killing them.

The detective was recalling the George Floyd protest on Flatbush Ave. near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on May 30, 2020 where he was caught on video slowly driving through a crowd of people encircling his marked NYPD SUV.

The protesters surrounded the SUV and tried to block its path with a metal barricade and bicycles, the video showed.

“Get ’em! Burn the motherf——!” someone can be heard screaming in the nearly two-minute long video clip, which shows the SUV, its turret lights flashing, slowly moving through the crowd then briefly accelerating when the road ahead was clear.

At the time, public focus and sentiment was largely against the police taking any action which had the potential to cause harm. After all, this was in the heat of George Floyd protests, explicitly against police use of force and with little to no concern for either the function or welfare of police.

*The Daily News article neglect to link to the video of the incident, although it links to no shortage of nonsensical worthless links.

Sesay, who is black, found himself in a difficult, if not untenable, situation.

“I wish you were inside the RMP [radio motor patrol car] when I was behind the wheel!” Detective Junior Sesay seethed at CCRB prosecutor Fredy Kaplan from the witness stand in the trial room at police headquarters, where NYPD disciplinary cases are heard.

“My life was in danger!” said Sesay, 39.

Was Sesay’s fear objectively reasonable? After some RMPs had been firebombed and burned,  others in cars have been dragged out and beaten, and given the efforts of the crowd to gain entry into the RMP, the only distinction might be that Sesay was a police officer rather than a random person who had the misfortune of finding himself in a car surrounded by a violent mob intent on harm and destruction. Was the CCRB contending that Sesay had no options but to remain in the SUV at a standstill until the mob broke into the car and . . . did whatever they would do to him?

Protesters were “just inches” from the SUV as people scrambled out of the vehicle’s path, according to Kaplan, who is asking the department to terminate Sesay and his partner that day, Officer Desean Mullings.

“There were no warnings or commands to tell them to get out of the way,” Kaplan said.

That protesters were “just inches” from the vehicle wasn’t because Sesay drove in search of bodies to aim at, but because protesters actively decided to put their bodies near, and in front of, the RMP to prevent it’s movement. Mind you, not only was Sesay in the car, but so too were two protesters under arrest. Would they be harmed because the mob didn’t know they were part of the same tribe? Would they be freed despite being arrested? Who knew?

The West African native said he felt threatened by the protesters, who blocked his path and threw water bottles and other objects at the police vehicle as they rallied against the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

“You can see the rage in their faces,” Sesay said of the protesters. “I thought they were going to drag me out of the RMP. I thought, ‘Am I going to lose my life? Is my partner going to lose his life?’”

At the time this occurred, a great many people lost all perspective about what was happening on the street. Some rationalized looting and burning during these “mostly peaceful” protests. Others grieved the inability of police to distinguish the few hundred among the few thousand engaged in violence and destruction as opposed to mere protest when dealing with intermingled rioters, looters and protesters.

As the police SUV rolled further down Flatbush Ave., protesters broke the SUV’s side and rear windows, according to the officers. The video presented at the departmental trial doesn’t show the windows being shattered.

When they finally stopped around Grand Army Plaza, Mullings recalled sweeping shattered glass off his prisoners, who were huddled in the rear of the SUV.

“They were in total shock,” Mullings said. “The person on my side was visibly shaken and said, ‘I thought I would die.’”

But here, the CCRB took it upon itself to pursue Det. Sesay’s termination from the NYPD, and its prosecutor, Fredy Kaplan, made the point.

In his closing argument, Kaplan mentioned Sesay’s behavior on the stand.

“He was very defensive about my questions and they were straightforward questions,” Kaplan said. “He showed his penchant for frustration. Did his frustration at the time lead him to start lurching the SUV forward?

“He was frustrated so he hit the pedal,” Kaplan said. “He wanted to get out.”

What were the options available to Sesay? He could have parked the SUV and waited patiently until the protesters moved aside and allowed him to drive through. He could have gotten out of his RMP and, in a stentorian voice, commanded the protesters to part so he could drive through, or else. He could have asked nicely and implored their better angels to let him pass.

What option would the CCRB have chosen for Det. Junior Sesay? And if it had no viable option, what purpose does the CCRB serve here? To the extent civilian review of the NYPD matters, and it should matter, then it has to address reality. As this was the hearing they chose to hold, its grasp of reality appears tenuous at best, and, as Sesay’s lawyer argued, “absurd” at worst.

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