New York State Attorney General Letitia James Sues NYPD For Abusive Tactics Used During George Floyd Protests
The suit comes a month after the state's Department of Investigation found major problems with the police engagement strategy used at the summer protests.
January 15, 2021 at 3:45 am
In Thursday’s 69-page suit, attorney general Letitia James
requests that a judge find the police department's actions unlawful during the protests. She also wants a federal monitor to supervise the NYPD’s engagement with demonstrators at future protests, according to The New York Times.
Last month, New York’s Department of Investigation released a loaded report condemning the department for overlooking not having a “clearly defined strategy” in its intervention at citywide protests sparked by Floyd’s death, The New York Post reported.
An investigation led by the attorney general’s office discovered that NY officers abused people by bashing them with batons and bicycles, and employed a risky containment strategy called kettling against protesters. Police officers were also found in the report to have arrested legal observers and medics, per The New York Times.
“From May 28, 2020, to Dec. 11, 2020, NYPD officers of various ranks… repeatedly and without justification used batons, fist strikes, pepper spray, and other physical force against New York residents at the protests. Protesters — many of whom were never charged with any crime and were merely exercising their First Amendment rights — suffered concussions, broken bones, cuts, bruises, and other physical injuries,” the suit obtained by The Post read.
At a press conference on Thursday, James said the course of action implemented by the New York police illustrates a pattern of illegal practices that have harmed residents historically. She also said that the mayor and the police department were at fault for failing to correct the behavior through discipline, reform and proper training.
“There was ample ability and opportunity for the city and NYPD leadership to make important changes to the way that officers interact with peaceful protesters, but time and time again, they did not,” James said. “They did not train, they did not supervise, they did not stop officers who engaged in this misconduct. And they did not discipline them either. Instead, they failed the people of the City of New York.”
Despite backlash from New Yorkers, Mayor Bill de Blasio has not sided with James on the issue and said the additional oversight she seeks would disrupt the current NYPD reforms.
“A court process and the added bureaucracy of a federal monitor will not speed up this work. There is no time to waste and we will continue to press forward,” de Blasio said in a statement.
In December, the mayor reversed course on his defense of the police department at the summer protests. Facing stiff criticism, he said he felt remorse for not doing more and standing against the department’s injustice.
“I didn’t do better,” de Blasio said. “And I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons. And I want our police department to do better, and I’m going to insist upon that.”
This is a season of reflection.
I’ve read the Department of Investigation’s report on the NYPD’s handling of the protests in response to the murder of George Floyd. It’s clear that we have we to do something different in New York City.
We have to do something better. pic.twitter.com/nhY12KSNuE
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 18, 2020
At the press conference announcing James’ suit, protesters attested that the police attacks left them bloody, traumatized, and angry that nothing was being done to protect them, The Post reported. “I think I was assaulted by an irresponsible officer because that officer was sure he or she would get away with it,” Luke Hanna said. At a protest on June 3, a cop allegedly beat Hanna with a baton following a directive to disperse crowds in Brooklyn. The man needed to receive 10 staples on his head to heal the wound.