Statement by Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh:
After the video was brought to my attention on Monday morning, I immediately asked Chief Buckner to conduct a complete review of the incident, which is underway. To be clear, I do not condone unwarranted acts of aggression by the Syracuse Police Department towards the media, and I am deeply concerned about incidents involving media I have seen happening around the country. I have spoken directly to Syracuse.com, the Syracuse Press Club, and to Mr. Nett to apologize for what occurred and restate my support for the role of the media. I will reserve final judgement on the actions of the officer until the Chief’s review is complete. In the meantime, I have asked Chief Buckner to make it clear to his officers that the media serve a critical role in our community, especially at this trying time in our nation.
Statement by Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner:
On Saturday, May 30, during the climax of the protests when the Public Safety Building was under attack and several windows were broken out of the Justice Center and the Public Safety Building, a Syracuse.com photographer was knocked to the ground by a Syracuse Police Officer who was exiting the PSB to respond to the unrest.
We received notification of the incident on Monday, June 1 including a three second video of what occurred. Mayor Walsh and I immediately ordered an investigation into the matter. On June 3, I called the photographer involved, Mr. Dennis Nett, and personally apologized to him. It was not our intention to knock him to the ground or prevent him from doing his very important job. I also have no reason to believe that Mr. Nett did anything intentionally to impede the police department from doing its job.
As it stands, the commander of the public order unit will conduct an investigation of the incident. He has been preoccupied by the events going on but it is his job to complete the after-action report. We need to continue our review of the evidence, which consists of the three second video and any other footage available, as well as interview those involved. At its conclusion, at the appropriate time, I will make a decision.
To members of the media, I would like to apologize to anyone who was offended by the unfortunate events that occurred on Saturday night. We view the media as a partner and will continue to work with them to illuminate the things that are important to our community. We plan to conduct training with the officers in our public order unit and with other members of the department. We will also invite members of the media to parts of the training to address specific things, such as working in a shared space, with the understanding that their jobs are equally important.
To members of my department who might take issue with me offering an apology for what many would describe as officers attempting to do their jobs, to you I say this: an apology does not make us weak. It actually makes us stronger, and it also humanizes the person behind the badge.