NYPD officers prepare to detain demonstrators on Fifth Avenue in...

NYPD officers prepare to detain demonstrators on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on June 4, 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes. Credit: Charles Eckert

The New York Police Department agreed Tuesday to dramatically reform its response to protests in a settlement with New York State Attorney General Letitia James, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society, which argued in lawsuits that NYPD officers used excessive force and made false arrests during Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.

The settlement, filed in the Southern District of New York, calls for the NYPD to use a tiered response system to standardize the size of police presence at demonstrations and require officers to engage in de-escalation tactics before calling for larger deployments.

The department also agreed to end the use of the crowd-control tactic known as “kettling,” or corralling protesters into a confined area.

The agreement resolves several lawsuits alleging excessive force and false arrests during protests over the death of George Floyd while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The New York Police Department agreed Tuesday to reform its response to protests as part of a settlement from lawsuits which argued that NYPD officers used excessive force and made false arrests during Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.
  • The settlement calls for the NYPD to use a tiered response system to standardize the size of police presence at demonstrations and require officers to engage in de-escalation tactics before calling for larger deployments.
  • The department also agreed to end the use of the crowd-control tactic known as “kettling,” or corralling protesters into a confined area.

James filed a lawsuit against the NYPD alleging a pattern of excessive force and false arrests during peaceful protests in January 2021, while the Legal Aid Society and the NYCLU sued the city in October 2020. Two private lawsuits also said police used excessive force against private citizens and members of the media.

“It is startling that the city would agree to all of this without a trial,” said Fred Klein, the former chief of the major offense bureau for the Nassau district attorney and a visiting professor of law at Hofstra University. “The plaintiffs must have had a very strong case.”

The deal requires the NYPD to create a senior position within the department to oversee the department’s response to public protests, and creation of an oversight committee to monitor how police react to demonstrations. The agreement also calls for the NYPD to improve treatment of the media during protests.

“The NYPD’s violent response to protesters during the 2020 demonstrations for Black lives made it clear to the world what too many New Yorkers already knew, that the NYPD is unable or unwilling to police itself,” said Molly Biklen, NYCLU’s deputy legal director.

NYPD Police Commissioner Edward Caban said officers had to balance the First Amendment right to protest with public safety during the demonstrations that erupted in the summer of 2020, which he said were fueled by frustration over Floyd’s death and the COVID-19 pandemic. He said some protesters came to New York with bad intentions.

“The NYPD has re-envisioned its policies for policing protests to deal with these unique scenarios,” Caban said. “This agreement represents the department’s commitment to continually improving to ensure the public remains safe and individual rights are protected.”

Officials with the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing thousands of police officers, did not immediately return calls for comment.

The settlement calls for creation of an oversight committee to monitor compliance during the next three years. The deal requires the NYPD to change training and policies to comply with the settlement. The oversight committee will meet regularly to evaluate and report on how the department responds to protests.

The city will provide $1.625 million for its Department of Investigation to fulfill its role on the oversight committee, and an additional $1.45 million for the plaintiff’s lawyers to hire a community outreach expert who will gather community input, city officials said.

Klein said most of the reforms appear thoughtful, although he is concerned that the tiered response system sounds better in an “academic setting” than it will in real life. “Things can go from peaceful protests to violent riots quickly,” he said.

The videotaped death of Floyd, a Black man murdered in May 2020 by a then-Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, catalyzed nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. The vast majority of the protests were peaceful, although some looting and rioting occurred amid the demonstrations.

The Department of Investigations later issued a report that said NYPD leadership did not have a clear response to the large protests and that some cops abused their authority and engaged in unjustified excessive force.

In July, the city agreed to pay more than $13 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought on behalf of about 1,300 people who were arrested or beaten by NYPD officers during the 2020 demonstrations. In March, the city said it would pay $21,500 each to more than 300 protesters — nearly $7 million — who were arrested, detained or beaten during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. The lawsuit said the protesters were subjected to kettling.

The NYPD agreed in Tuesday’s settlement to refrain from encircling large groups of protesters. Instead, officers can encircle only individuals or groups that are a target of arrest. People who are inadvertently encircled must be allowed to leave the area — and officers must help them exit.

 Bethpage drums tipster … State pension gains … New oyster reef Credit: Newsday

Hot and humid weekend ... Bethpage drums tipster ... Family accepts son's HS diploma ... FeedMe: Smithtown farmers market

 Bethpage drums tipster … State pension gains … New oyster reef Credit: Newsday

Hot and humid weekend ... Bethpage drums tipster ... Family accepts son's HS diploma ... FeedMe: Smithtown farmers market

Latest video

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME