NYPD to reform policing of protests in landmark agreement deal that resolves 2020 lawsuits

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Tuesday, September 5, 2023
NYPD to reform policing of protests in landmark agreement deal
An agreement was announced Tuesday between the New York Attorney General, the NYPD and civil liberties advocates to reform how protests are policed. N.J. Burkett has more.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An agreement was announced Tuesday between the New York Attorney General, the NYPD and civil liberties advocates to reform how protests are policed.

Under the deal, police will stop using controversial tactics called kettling, where officers surround demonstrators to corral them before making arrests.

"This is really an enormous victory for New Yorkers, because it represents a real change in the way the NYPD approach to policing protests," said Corey Stoughton of The Legal Aid Society.

A new senior role will also be created to oversee responses to all public demonstrations.

A new four-tiered response system will dictate how NYPD responds to protests, with a primary goal of protecting the rights of protesters.

The tiered system will aim to minimize police presence at protests and require NYPD to use de-escalation methods before increasing its response.

The system allows for increased NYPD presence and response if protests block major traffic arteries, if protesters engage in unlawful conduct, or other situations that could compromise public safety.

The settlement resolves lawsuits against the NYPD for its response to mass protests in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.

The protests were often tense, but not violent. However, there were times when some marchers split into groups and rampaged through the streets and the NYPD seemed overwhelmed.

When these officers were surrounded, they tried to plow through the crowd. Another officer was seen on video shoving a young woman to the pavement. Another drew his gun.

Hundreds were arrested, some of them, manhandled by police officers in riot gear. Several reporters said they were held back

"The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental part of American freedom, and the right to public safety is essential for our city to function - balancing these two important rights is one of this administration's core missions," Mayor Eric Adams said.

Some critics say the settlement goes too far and that protests can become violent rapidly.

"You can't do that. You can't let a crime occur first and then you move on it," said retired NYPD Police Chief Robert Boyce. "You have to deploy your resources before that happens."

The president of the Police Benevolent Association released a statement Tuesday, saying is it not signing onto the settlement agreement:

"The PBA will not join in this settlement agreement, because we have serious concerns about its impact on the safety of police officers and all New Yorkers in future situations involving coordinated violent actions. Once again, police officers on the street are being left to bear all the burden of so-called 'solutions' to problems we didn't create, while the real causes of the chaos remain unaddressed. Nearly 400 NYPD members were injured during the summer 2020 protests, but there has been zero accountability for the agitators who used the protests as cover to assault police officers. This settlement does not change that. If anything, it may serve to encourage future violence. It creates a regime that will enrich anti-police advocates through yet another monitorship disguised as an 'oversight process,' and it will expose police officers to more discipline for taking lawful and appropriate police action. The individuals and groups responsible for the 2020 violence and destruction will surely view this agreement as a green light to create more of the same."

Civil liberties experts disagree.

"In the past, the NYPD's approach has really been to send as many police officers as they possibly could," Stoughton said. "And what we saw in the summer of 2020 is that that approach escalated violence, it escalated tensions."

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