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Video: NYPD Officer Gets ‘Quick Recap’ on How to Drive a Bus Before Taking the Wheel of an MTA Bus Full of Handcuffed Protesters

"He was just fumbling around. Clearly, he didn't know what buttons to hit. He couldn't turn the bus on."

(Screenshot from video, courtesy of Jake Meiseles)

At least two NYPD officers had to learn how to drive MTA buses while transporting dozens of handcuffed protesters after a Jewish Voice for Peace action last Tuesday night. While the Adams administration assured us that both officers had proper licenses to drive the buses, they might want to bone up on their training—their passengers described unusually turbulent rides to NYPD headquarters in Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge, as the officers ignored the bridge's 6,000-pound weight limit.

Jake Meiseles attended the protest at Grand Army Plaza, which was calling for an end to U.S. funding of the Israeli military, and was standing near the MTA buses as police officers began loading them up with arrested protesters.

Meiseles described what he observed on two of the buses being used by the NYPD, which were driven by police officers because MTA workers refuse to transport people arrested during protests. On the first bus, which Hell Gate confirmed was the vehicle arrested protesters said was driven by a police officer who drove over a curb and didn't appear to know how to turn the bus, Meiseles said that the officer couldn't open the barrier separating the driver's seat from the rest of the bus.

"He was struggling. He clearly had no idea how to drive a bus," Meiseles told Hell Gate. "Eventually, he got it open, sat in the seat, didn't know what he was doing, was just hitting buttons randomly. And like, the bus was going up and down, and lights were going on and off."

But that seeming lack of knowledge of how to drive the bus did not deter the officer from getting behind the wheel. "In one hand, he was holding his phone with Google Maps up, and [with] the other hand, just driving this bus that he clearly had no idea how to drive, and just left," Meiseles said. 

Meiseles then saw a second MTA bus being taken over by another NYPD officer, which he took a video of. "He similarly had no idea how to drive the bus and couldn't get the barrier open. Like, he was just fumbling around. Clearly, he didn't know what buttons to hit. He couldn't turn the bus on," Meiseles said. Then, a person who appeared to be an MTA employee came and showed the police officer how to drive the bus, an exchange that Meiseles caught on camera:

In the video, the supposed MTA employee, wearing a camel-colored coat and sitting in the driver's seat, clearly is showing the NYPD officer standing by his side how to operate the bus, demonstrating how to drive it forward and pointing out various buttons and levers, before exiting the bus. (At one point, you can hear him tell the police officer, "And it's the same for the other side.") 

An arrested protester on that bus, who asked to be kept anonymous for privacy reasons, described an absurd and potentially dangerous situation similar to the accounts of people on the commandeered MTA bus we wrote about last week. "The driver stalled a lot," she recalled. "At one point, someone yelled out, 'You got this!'" There was also, she said, a police officer vaping on the bus, right next to a "No Smoking" sign.

The protester noted that some of the police officers on board didn't seem to know how to open the doors on the bus, which became clear once they arrived at One Police Plaza and people requested to use the bathroom after being on the bus for several hours. The officers only allowed those arrested to leave the bus one by one to use the bathroom, she said, after one of the arrested protesters squatted on the floor as if they were about to begin urinating. (The protesters on the bus, she said, had also been chanting, "We need to pee" at various points during the ride.)

"They couldn't figure out how to work out the door, they had to get someone else to come over," she said. The officers eventually figured it out, and she got off the bus to pee, but when she returned, she said, police officers were still having trouble with the door. Another officer standing outside of the bus finally resorted to holding his phone up to the window to get another officer to call him, so he could explain how to open the door. "When I got back on the bus, they were practicing how to open and close the doors, and it closed on me," she said. She said she was fine, at least from the door; the zip-ties her arresting officer used to handcuff her were so tight, she said, that her wrists were bruised and her hands were swollen for two days afterwards.

According to City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak, both of the NYPD officers driving the two buses that Meiseles observed have been trained and certified to drive commercial vehicles, though she did not provide their names. "Those two officers were properly licensed, according to DCPI," Mamelak told Hell Gate, referring to the name of the NYPD's press shop, the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information. An NYPD spokesperson wrote in an email, "All of the officers had a minimum Class B license and were qualified by the department." 

When we pointed out that the video shows an NYPD officer learning how to drive a bus, Mamelak responded, "The video you have is a driver giving a quick recap to an officer on how to operate the vehicle. It does not mean he isn't trained to do so." Mamelak added, "It's not like this is the first time this man is behind the wheel of a bus." 

Mamelak referred our questions about why the officers took the Brooklyn Bridge, in defiance of the two-ton weight limit, to the NYPD; the NYPD did not respond to our question.

Isn't it concerning that police officers, even if they're licensed to do so, don't seem to quite know how to operate a bus transporting people who are zip-tied? "It was my understanding there were no incidents," Mamelak said. "Most importantly, no one was hurt."

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