Bronx Defenders, a group of defense lawyers in Bronx, New York City, had taken part in the making of a video that advocated violence against police officers, according to a city investigation on Thursday. The video “Hands Up,” with lyrics, "time to start killing these coppers," showed singers pointing guns at the head of a person pretending to be a police officer.
The video was released shortly before the December shooting of two police officers in New York by a gunman, who said he was avenging the deaths of the African-Americans who were killed by white police officers in the U.S.
Two Bronx lawyers had appeared in the music video, some of which was filmed in the firm's office, Reuters reported, citing the investigation. Bronx Defenders, which is funded legally by the city, had later apologized for the anti-police video, which cited them as sponsors in the credits.
"We were appalled that lawyers who are part of the criminal justice system that are funded by city tax payer dollars would willingly take part in a video that they knew advocated the killing of police officers. That is absolutely unacceptable behavior," Mark Peters from the New York DOI, said, according to ABC News New York.
The DOI report said the two lawyers had encouraged the organization to take part in the video, after the company that produced the video approached them, The Wall Street Journal reported. There was “serious misconduct” by the two lawyers and “gross mismanagement” on the part of Robin Steinberg, the organization’s executive director, who failed to discipline the lawyers and sent “misleading letters” about the video to officials, media reports said, citing the investigation report.
“The actions of your employees and the Executive Director have put in jeopardy the effectiveness of the services that they are obliged to deliver to indigent clients in the city,” Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, wrote in a letter to the chairman of Bronx Defenders’ board of directors, according to the Journal. In the letter, the city gave the firm until next Wednesday to come up with a “detailed plan of action” to address the issues mentioned in the DOI report.
The video, featuring artists Uncle Murda, Maino and Jay Watts, was reportedly released on YouTube and WorldStarHipHop in December and is still accessible on these platforms.
Bronx Defenders had issued a statement on its website Thursday that it regretted any involvement in the video and "never approved the music video ‘Hands Up,’ and never saw it before it went online."
Police Union President Pat Lynch reportedly demanded that the organization be shut down permanently. "It is clear that Bronx Defenders who knowingly participated in this despicable video calling for the murder of police officers have violated their oath as officers of the court and should be disbarred as a result," Lynch said, according to ABC News New York.