BERKELEY, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) - The head of the New York Police Department vowed on Tuesday to repair relations with poor and minority communities following the death of a suspect, even as protests over police violence flared across the United States.
The department will retrain its members in nonviolent ways of making arrests, Police Commissioner William Bratton said, adding that he had taken a non-confrontational approach to protests over a grand jury’s decision not to charge the officer involved in the controversial chokehold case.
Protests over that decision and a finding from a Missouri grand jury that a white police officer did not break the law when he fatally shot an unarmed black teenager have spread across the United States.
On a day when New York police officers shot and killed a man who stabbed a rabbinical student from Israel in a Brooklyn synagogue - a shooting Bratton said appeared justified - the commissioner admitted relations between his department and some communities were poor.
“The reality is that there is a divide between the police and some people in communities that need us most, but that divide can be bridged,” Bratton told a New York business group. “The reality is that the people and the police can be partners.”
More than 150 protesters were arrested around Berkeley, California, overnight after shutting down a major freeway and throwing rocks at police.
The death in New York of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, and the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, of Michael Brown, have highlighted strained relations between police and black Americans and rekindled a national debate over race relations.
The National Basketball Association said on Tuesday it would take no action against players, including LeBron James, who wore T-shirts at a game in New York on Monday night bearing the phrase “I Can’t Breathe,” a reference to Garner’s last words in a widely viewed video of his death.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he supports players voicing their opinions on social issues, but would prefer they abide by the rule that stipulates players wear clothing made by Adidas, the league’s official apparel provider.
Columbia University Law School said it would allow students disturbed by the grand jury’s decision and subsequent protests to ask that their final exams be rescheduled.
In Phoenix, about 200 protesters marched to police headquarters over the killing of another unarmed black man by a white officer in what authorities described as a struggle last week.
Protesters demanded that police release the name of the officer involved in the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon, a man police suspected of selling drugs.
Writing by Sharon Bernstein and Curtis Skinner; Editing by Gareth Jones, Andrew Heavens and Andre Grenon