A New York Police officer apologized to his colleagues for taking a knee during a George Floyd protest.
Lt. Robert Cattani was one of the officers seen kneeling at a protest on May 31, according to The New York Post. This symbolic gesture was praised by those who saw it as an act of solidarity but Cattani saw it differently.
In an email sent to his fellow officers on June 3, Cattani claimed he made a ““horrible decision to give into a crowd of protesters’ demands.”
“The conditions prior to the decision to take a knee were very difficult as we were put center stage with the entire crowd chanting,” he wrote. “I know I made the wrong decision. We didn’t know how the protesters would have reacted if we didn’t and were attempting to reduce any extra violence.”
A video from the event shows the crowd chanting “NYPD take a knee” repeatedly before the officers obliged. There was no evident violence, and everyone was merely standing around during the chant.
Cattani told his fellow officers he felt the gesture might improve cops’ standing with protesters, a position he’s now repudiating.
“I thought maybe that one protester/rioters who saw it would later think twice about fighting or hurting a cop,” Cattani said in his message. “I was wrong. At least that [sic] what I told myself when we made that bad decision. I know that it was wrong and something I will be shamed and humiliated about for the rest of my life.”
Cattani also acknowledged Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer charged in the killing of George Floyd.
“We all know that a–hole in Minneapolis was wrong,” he wrote. “Yet we don’t concede [sic] for other officers’ mistakes,” he added. “I do not place blame on anyone other than myself for not standing my ground.”
Cattani went on to describe losing sleep and not eating because the emotional turmoil he experienced after taking a knee. He also claimed he had considered quitting his job over it but decided to stay because resignation would have been “the easy way out for me.”
The NYPD has not publicly addressed Cattani’s letter. The New York Post acquired the letter on Thursday, two days after Mike O’Meara, president of New York state’s association of police unionS, scolded the media for spreading an anti-cop agenda. During a news conference in New York City on Tuesday, O’Meara urged the media to “stop treating us like animals and thugs and start treating us with some respect.”
Like other police forces across the country, the NYPD has been under scrutiny since Floyd’s death sparked countless protests. Before Floyd’s Memorial Day death, the NYPD was criticized for over policing Black and Latinx people while trying to enforce social distancing guidelines.