Police review board says violence during protests shows lack of training

The New York Police Department must review its response to large protests and better train officers to control crowds while preserving the right to protest, according to a report released Monday by a watchdog body that examines police misconduct.

The report concludes a month-long review by the Civil Complaints Review Committee that included hundreds of investigations into clashes between protesters and police during the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the city following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer in May 2020.

Thousands of people turned out for protests that month and into June. Gatherings were scattered and sporadic, often continuing late into the night. While most protests were peaceful, riots broke out, resulting in smashed storefronts, looted stores and torched police vehicles. Protesters have often been accused of assaulting officers, who surrounded them with pepper spray and batons.

During and after the protests, the council received around 750 police misconduct complaints and opened investigations into 321 of them, according to the report.

As a result of its findings, the board recommended disciplinary action in 146 cases involving 138 officers. Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell – who has the final say on discipline – has issued penalties in 42 cases so far. She has yet to decide on the others, according to the report.

In the report, the council argued that police should be better equipped and trained to handle large protests and should establish a clear chain of command.

“Given what is happening across the country regarding reproductive rights, immigration, affordable housing and police brutality, people will continue to protest for their rights,” said Arva Rice, acting chair of the board of directors. ‘administration. “It’s critical that New York knows how best to respond to protests, especially protests against police misconduct.”

Carrie B. Talansky, the police department’s acting assistant commissioner for legal affairs, wrote to the council that officers were facing “acts of lawlessness, including large-scale riots, mass chaos, violence and destruction” while trying to facilitate peaceful protests.

At the height of the protests, 22,000 officers were deployed in a single day, Ms Talansky wrote, adding that around 400 were injured in the protests and 250 hospitalized.

Each complaint can contain multiple allegations, and the board only found enough evidence of misconduct in about 15% of them, she said.

“The NYPD’s response to the summer 2020 protests was largely professional, commendable and sensitive to the unique circumstances that were present at the time,” Ms. Talansky added.

According to the report, some officers exhibited the following behaviors:

  • Used batons to beat protesters in violation of police department guidelines.

  • Pepper spray used indiscriminately.

  • Concealed their names and shield numbers.

  • Failed to activate body worn cameras.

The report provided policy prescriptions for improving performance at future protests:

  • Training of every officer in crowd control, including proper use of pepper spray and batons.

  • Rethink the tactics and tools used by officers during protests to mitigate risk to people and property, and to preserve the right to peaceful protest.

  • Adequate documentation indicating where officers are deployed.

Several law enforcement unions in the city criticized the report hours after it was released.

Paul DiGiacomo, head of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said in a statement that the report did not acknowledge the hundreds of officers injured.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the board wrongly blamed officers for protesters’ actions that prompted officers to respond and for failures of police department leadership.

“We are still holding accounts for the city leaders who sent us without a plan or support,” he said in a statement. statement.

Independent bodies that review police work are rare in the United States.

In New York, any resident can file a complaint with the council, which is an independent city agency. If the members believe that a complaint is founded, the council has the power to open an investigation.

The agency can only review allegations of excessive force, abuse of authority, lack of courtesy and offensive language. Its investigators conduct interviews and collect evidence to determine whether or not to recommend discipline.

(Cases can also result in other outcomes, including “unable to determine,” which means there’s not enough evidence to decide whether or not an agent was at fault.)

Once the investigators have completed their investigation, the board reviews a final report on the case and votes on a recommendation. The case is then forwarded to the Commissioner of Police for a final decision.


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