The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing New York and its police department for excessive force in response to protests following the death of George Floyd last year.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday seeks broad relief, including systemic reforms for the department and the establishment of a monitor to oversee NYPD policing tactics in future protests and work to ensure compliance with the law.
At a press conference Thursday, James said his office’s investigation of the NYPD’s conduct showed an overly aggressive response to what were largely peaceful protests.
“We need an immediate change from decades-old unjust policies and practices,” James said at a press conference Thursday. “And to restore confidence and ensure that reforms are fully implemented, it is essential that real changes are made.”
The lawsuit, also naming Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Dermot Shea and other police leaders, follows a wave of protests this summer over the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the greater number of unarmed blacks killed by law enforcement, according to a statement from the attorney general’s office.
De Blasio said he met James on Wednesday and they both shared the common goal of seeing further police reforms. Still, he believes the trial won’t make their common goal any quicker.
“A judicial process and the additional bureaucracy of a federal comptroller will not speed up this work,” de Blasio said. “There is no time to waste and we will continue to move forward.”
The NYPD also welcomes the reform and adopted recent suggestions from the city’s investigation and legal departments, but agreed with the mayor that the lawsuit did not hasten reform, a department spokesperson said. from police.
December 18:NYPD use of force and mass arrests ‘escalated tensions’ at George Floyd protests, Watchdog reports
In response to these largely peaceful protests, James accuses the NYPD of using brute force tactics and failing to properly train, supervise and discipline officers to avoid misconduct.
In the complaint, James exposes dozens of alleged cases of excessive police force and other misconduct that caused significant damage to protesters, including the wrongful use of pepper spray batons, bicycles and tactics crowd control known as kettling.
“There is no question that the NYPD has engaged in a model of excessive, brutal and illegal force against peaceful protesters,” James said. “Over the past few months, the NYPD has repeatedly and blatantly violated the rights of New Yorkers, inflicting significant physical and psychological damage and leading to great mistrust of law enforcement.
After heavy clashes between the NYPD and protesters, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 1,300 complaints and evidence through a dedicated online portal and hotlines and email since late May.
In total, the office found that officers hit protesters with blunt instruments at least 50 times, illegally deployed pepper spray against protesters in at least 30 incidents, and used unreasonable force while pushing or hitting protesters at least. 75 times, the statement said.
NYPD agents are also accused of illegally arresting legal observers, doctors and other workers without probable cause.
James said that “we have a problem that is bigger than any agent” and that it must be resolved with proper training, protocols and discipline.
“I hope today’s action will push the city in the right direction, so that we can move forward in decency, transparency and respect for the law,” said James.
Follow Tiffany Cusaac-Smith on Twitter @T_Cusaac.