Police officers surround a group of people suspected of looting...

Police officers surround a group of people suspected of looting before arresting them in New York, Monday, June 1, 2020. Demonstrators took to the streets of New York City to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

A police watchdog agency said it has found evidence of misconduct that should result in discipline against 144 NYPD officers stemming from the 2020 protests related to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, according to a report obtained by Newsday.

In its latest statistical report through March 3, the Civilian Complaint Review Board said it received and investigated 321 complaints stemming from the protests. It said it substantiated 87 complaints of misconduct involving a total of 144 officers. The substantiation rate on complaints amounted to 38% of those it received, the CCRB noted.

In its report, the CCRB said it faced challenges in probing complaints, such as some cops covering their names and shield numbers or wearing protective gear assigned to other officers. Some officers also didn’t properly use body-worn cameras, it said.

The demonstrations that followed Floyd's death led in some cases to arson and looting. The NYPD said more than 400 officers were hurt and scores of police vehicles were damaged. Thousands of demonstrators also said they were hurt, and the city recently settled a class-action lawsuit, filed by protesters in October 2020 claiming unlawful police tactics, for $13 million.

NYPD officials didn’t return a request Friday for comment about the latest CCRB report.

Patrick Hendry, head of Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement that internal discipline against cops was sparked by a series of poor policy decisions by city officials regarding the handling of the 2020 protests. Hendry said it appeared that the CCRB was now trying to discipline cops again in the aftermath of the recent pro-Palestinian campus protests.

The civilian agency, formed in the 1990s to look into complaints about police misconduct such as excessive force, abuse of authority, offensive language and discourtesy, recommended that the NYPD serve charges against 88 cops for such offenses in the Floyd protests. Cases involved officers from the rank of patrol officer to inspector who were on the streets during the heated period of protests, which ran from late May to early June 2020.

Under NYPD disciplinary procedures, the CCRB recommended serving those officers with formal charges that could result in administrative departmental trials. In addition, the CCRB recommended a total of 56 officers receive some kind of lesser discipline that could include retraining or lost vacation days.

A statistical chart compiled by the CCRB showed that internal penalties levied by the NYPD for misconduct during the protests ranged from none to a loss of up to 20 vacation days. One police officer resolved his case with a plea bargain that resulted in his dismissal from the force.

In the CCRB cases that have so far gone to administrative trials, records showed that it was difficult for the board to prevail. Of the 14 cases that went to trial, NYPD administrative law judges issued findings of not guilty in 12 of them, the CCRB reported. Some officers escaped the disciplinary process by retiring or resigning.

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