NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her office filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department over their actions during the racial injustice protests last spring and summer.
The lawsuit includes dozens of examples of alleged misconduct during the injustice demonstrations, including Black Lives Matter, in the wake of George Floyd’s police killing. Listed in the lawsuit is the alleged unlawful use of pepper spray and batons on protesters, trapping demonstrators with a technique called kettling and arresting medics and legal observers.
“We found a pattern of deeply concerning and unlawful practices that the NYPD utilized in response to these largely peaceful protests,” said James at a news conference Thursday.
James was tasked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with investigating whether NYPD officers used excessive force to quell unrest and enforce Mayor Bill de Blasio’s nightly curfew.
She concluded a “clear breakdown of trust between police and the public” had occurred after issuing a preliminary report in July 2020. The report said the NYPD had violated protesters’ First Amendment rights, used excessive force and officers were not trained properly to handle the demonstrations.
She is seeking reforms including the appointment of a monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing tactics at future protests and a court order declaring that the policies and practices the department used during the protests were unlawful.
The NYPD did not immediately comment on the lawsuit. It is also the first time in New York’s history a state attorney general has sued the NYPD.
The Police Benevolent Association (NYC PBA) which represents over 50,000 active and retired NYC police officers said their organization “submitted extensive written testimony, including testimonials from injured police officers” as well as a disorder control expert and former department chief.
We will say it again: what we witnessed in June was a failure of New York City’s leadership. They sent cops out to police unprecedented protests and violent riots with no plan, no strategy and no support. They should be forced to answer for the resulting chaos, instead of pointing fingers at cops on the streets and ignoring the criminals who attacked us with bricks and firebombs.”Patrick J. Lynch, President, NYC Police Benevolent Association
Hundreds of protesters were arrested over the course of protests in the wake of Floyd’s, Breonna Taylor’s and other police-involved deaths. Videos of excessive force among officers were shared across social media. One incident that garnered a response from de Blasio and Cuomo involved plainclothes officers pulling a protester into an unmarked van off the streets.
Last August, New York City unveiled a discipline matrix, similar to sentencing guidelines, to penalize officers who overreach.
It would not be the first time the NYPD had a federal monitor. One was placed in the department to monitor the city’s stop and frisk program after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional.
James’ lawsuit is the second major legal action to stem from the NYPD’s handling of the protests. In October, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society sued the city on behalf of protesters who say they were assaulted and abused by police.
In December, the city’s inspector general found that the NYPD was caught off guard by the size of the protests and resorted to aggressive disorder control methods that stoked tensions and stifled free speech.
Read the full lawsuit below:
The Associated Press contributed to this article, reporting by AP’s Michael R. Sisak.