New York City's taxi drivers are demanding an apology from the police officer seen on video apparently verbally abusing an Uber driver in an at-times xenophobic roadside tirade in the West Village earlier this week. They say they hope the altercation spurs better treatment for hacks from the NYPD.
The New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers demanded the apology at a news conference Thursday outside the NYPD's lower Manhattan headquarters, less than a day after Police Commissioner Bill Bratton admonished detective Patrick Cherry for his role in the exchange with an Uber driver Monday afternoon.
"No good cop can watch that without a wince," Bratton said Wednesday of the video. "All good cops know that the officer just made their jobs a little bit harder."
Taxi drivers say they don't want Cherry, a member of the NYPD's elite Joint Terrorism Task Force who was re-assigned to modified paid duty, fired if he apologizes. They say they hope that the now viral video can help end widespread mistreatment of hired drivers by NYPD officers.
NYSFTD spokesman Fernando Mateo echoed those sentiments at Thursday's news conference, saying that Cherry "did us all a favor" because the video of him opens up the door to discussing the problem. Mateo also asked for Cherry's job to be spared.
Mateo said a meeting with Bratton on Thursday was productive and that it could lead to the NYPD training officers on how to treat taxi and Uber drivers.
The video Uber passenger Seth Sanjay captured of a police officer, later identified as Cherry, berating the Uber driver has been viewed nearly 2 million times on YouTube. Cherry's badge and gun have been taken away pending the outcome of the investigation by the NYPD and Civilian Complaint Review Board. Seth tweeted Wednesday that he testified before the CCRB.
According to Seth's original YouTube post, his Uber driver honked his car horn at the officer because the officer was trying to park on a Sixth Precinct street in the middle of the afternoon without using any blinkers or hazard lights, and the Uber driver's path to a green light was blocked.
The officer, seen wearing a green tie and blue shirt at points in the passenger video, got out of his unmarked car, which had flashing blue and red lights on the dashboard, and flagged down the Uber driver.
The three-minute video begins as the officer approaches the Uber driver's window and starts yelling at the driver, raising his voice over the Uber driver's muted apologies and efforts to interject.
"Stop it with your mouth, stop it with your, 'For what, sir,'" Cherry is heard saying in the video as he curses. "Stop it with that ... and realize the three vehicle and traffic law violations you committed."
"You understand me? I don't know what [epithet] planet you think you're on right now," the officer yells, making fun of the Uber driver's accent.
The officer then slams the hood of the Uber car and walks away; the Uber driver tries to apologize to his passengers, who tell him it was not his fault and inform him a video of the exchange was recorded. One of the passengers said it appeared the officer was on a "power trip"; the other called the man's behavior "really inappropriate."
The officer returns to the Uber car about 90 seconds after slamming the hood and storming off, the video shows, and continues to curse at and belittle the driver. The driver keeps trying to defuse the situation with respectful apologies. Then the officer goes off on him.
"I don't know where you're coming from or where you think you're appropriate in doing that," the man yells, apparently in reference to the car honk from earlier. "That's not the way it works. How long have you been in this country?"
"Almost how long? Two years?" the officer yells after the driver whispers a response. "I got news for you, and use this lesson: Don't ever do that again. The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do."
"That's the only reason that's not happening, because this isn't important enough to me, you're not important enough," he says.
The officer turns toward the passengers in the back seat, asks if they are fares and says something about the Uber driver wasting their days, too. The officer hands the driver some kind of piece of paper that looks like a ticket and leaves as the passenger cellphone video pans to the flashing lights on the dashboard of his vehicle, parked behind the Uber car.
Photo Credit: Sanjay Seth