New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department will conduct its own investigation into use of pepper spray during a protest against Wall Street last week.
Kelly described the protesters' behavior on Saturday as "tumultuous," explaining that those marching from Union Square Park "were intent on blocking traffic."
The commissioner also said the Civilian Complaint Review Board is investigating the incident and will issue recommendations. The CCRB said they have received about 150 complaints daily about the pepper-spray incident.
"We've received close to 400 communications from people," CCRB spokesperson Linda Sachs said. "The vast majority only saw the incident on YouTube or television. So we're going through those complaints, and devising and implementing a system to catalog them."
She added that the board, an independent agency that has limited enforcement capabilities, accepts complaints from anybody, but will need cooperation from people who had been sprayed in order to investigate, and so far it is hard to say whether any of those people have stepped forward.
"What took them so long?" asked protester Justin Wedes upon news that the NYPD was conducting an internal review. "We've been reviewing the police's behavior and our own behavior ever since we came here. They need to keep a close eye on themselves.”
Kelly said he wished the Occupy Wall Street protesters — now in their 12th day of demonstrations — would obtain a permit from the city.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne defended the use of pepper spray and said protesters had confronted officers.
Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna was identified as the officer who used the pepper spray. Roy Richter, president of the NYPD Captains Endowment Association, said Bologna' actions "were motivated by his concern for the safety of offices under his command and the safety of the public. The limited use of pepper spray effectively restored order without any escalation of force or serious injury to either demonstrator or police officer."
About 80 people were arrested this past weekend when the protesters marched uptown to Union Square.
With reporting from Arun Venugopal