New York City Council holds oversight hearing on NYPD Strategic Response Group

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
City Council holds oversight hearing on NYPD Strategic Response Group
New York City Council held its first-ever oversight hearing on the NYPD Strategic Response Group Wednesday morning. Darla Miles has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Council held its first-ever oversight hearing on the NYPD Strategic Response Group Wednesday morning.

But before the hearing, the NYCLU, advocates, and elected officials rallied at City Hall demanding transparency and accountability from the unit.

The oversight hearing occurred Wednesday following multiple postponements.

More than 100 individuals alleging SRG violence signed up to testify. The NYPD did not attend, but submitted written testimony.

City Council was not happy with the NYPD skipping the hearing, calling it a "disservice" and says the NYPD "undermined its relationship with the Council."

They released a statement about the NYPD's decision:

"The NYPD's decision to skip a public hearing about the Strategic Response Group (SRG) is a disservice to the people of our city and ignores the dozens who shared their experiences of being policed by the unit. The SRG unit has raised serious concerns from New Yorkers for its policing of Constitutionally-protected activities, and oversight is essential for issues of this significance. Agencies are expected to be transparent with the City's residents through public hearings, and the message sent by NYPD leadership today is that the department does not need to be accountable to the everyday New Yorkers they swore to protect and serve. This lack of commitment to public transparency and accountability cannot continue, and it's a shame that the department's leadership not only undermined its relationship with the Council but all New Yorkers by choosing to not show up," said Council Spokesperson Rendy Desamours.

The city has agreed to pay anywhere between $4 to $6 million to hundreds of demonstrators penned in by police during a George Floyd protest in the Bronx on June 4, 2020, using a tactic protesters refer to as "kettling." The roughly 300 people arrested at the protest are expected to get $21,500 each.

NYPD released a statement on that development saying,

"These cases involves allegations stemming from arrests made in Mott Haven on June 4, 2020 for curfew violations. This was the second night of an 8 p.m. curfew implemented by Mayor Bill de Blasio. After Mayor de Blasio declared a state of emergency on June 1, 2020, he signed Emergency Executive Order No. 119 instituting the 8 p.m. curfew because there were "violent acts...happening primarily during the hours of darkness" and the curfew was "necessary to protect the City and its residents from severe endangerment and harm to their health, safety and property." It was a challenging moment for the department as officers who themselves were suffering under the strains of a global pandemic did their utmost to help facilitate people's rights to peaceful expression all while addressing acts of lawlessness including wide-scale rioting, mass chaos, violence, and destruction. Two-and-a-half years after the protests of 2020, much of the NYPD's policies and training for policing large-scale demonstrations have been re-envisioned based on the findings of the department's own, self-initiated analyses and on the recommendations from three outside agencies who carefully investigated that period. The NYPD remains committed to continually improving its practices in every way possible.""

Still, adversaries say that the SRG is violent, overfunded, and unaccountable. They claim that the unit abuses protestors.

In 2020, 472 complaints were filed against SRG officers, but only 82 could be substantiated and 43% of those cases had to be closed because the officers could not be identified.

As for the cases that could be proven, Councilmember Chi Osse said, "last year in 2022 the CCRB has made over 70 recommendations, the police commissioner thwarted those because she does not want to offend good faith decisions made by police officers."

Since its creation in 2015, the SRG has grown from 350 officers with $13 million budget, to 700 officers with a $90 million budget.

In response, the Council's Committee on Public Safety conducted an oversight hearing.

"It is essential, therefore that NYPD's response to protests and civil unrest strike a proper balance between protecting free speech and public safety," Public Safety Chair Kamillah Hanks said.

The Committee explores the unit's size and scope, their tactics and training, and allegations of abuse and violence.

Osse says the NYPD paid $360 million for overtime last year and $90 million for the SRG while other city services were cut.

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