City Investigators Call Out NYPD for Using Excessive Force Against Protesters

Police response “likely escalated tensions and the potential for violence” say investigators.


New York City police officers used excessive force in their response to protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, according to a report from New York City's Department of Investigation (DOI). Police treatment of those demonstrating against law enforcement excess went so far, at times, as to undermine their own legitimacy, acknowledged the head of the agency that produced the report.

Investigators offer recommendations for improving New York Police Department (NYPD) interactions with demonstrations in the future. But nothing in the report can ease the inherent tensions when cops are themselves the targets of the protests they're monitoring, and little evidence that police are open to changing their ways.

"Nationwide protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police were met, in many cities, by even more police violence," Reason's Scott Shackford noted last July. "In New York City, dozens of incidents in which police responded with excessive force were caught on camera. But so far, the department says only four NYPD cops have been disciplined."

Individual incidents remain under internal investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Civilian Complaint Review Board, for what that's worth.

The current report focused on NYPD responses to George Floyd protests at an institutional and systemic level, DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett specified in a December 18 press conference. While pointing to "violence and property damage by some protesters," Garnett also admitted that "our investigation found that the NYPD as an institution made a number of key errors or omissions that likely escalated tensions and the potential for violence."

The report said NYPD lacked a strategy for dealing with protests where police conduct was the target, defaulting "to an application of 'disorder control' tactics and methods, without adjustment to reflect the NYPD's responsibility for facilitating lawful First Amendment expression."

The report pointed to indiscriminate use of force on peaceful protesters and rioters alike. That force included "encirclement (commonly called 'kettling'), mass arrests, baton and pepper spray use, and other tactics." Among the examples of such tactics was an incident on June 4 when "officers began executing mass arrests for curfew violations, which were accomplished in part by using physical force against protesters, including striking them with batons."

"Some policing decisions relied on intelligence without sufficient consideration of context or proportionality," the report added. The implication is that the intelligence was used to justify forceful tactics rather than to determine appropriate responses.

DOI investigators also noted that, except for some specialized units, "most officers responding to the protests had not received recent relevant training for policing protests." Even after the protests, remedial training emphasized disorder (riot) control rather than de-escalation and community affairs.

The outcome of missteps in May and June was the abusive use of force against peaceful protesters who were not attacking people or vandalizing property. That likely raised tensions and fanned the flames of violence as some protests escalated into actual riots and looting.

But more is at stake beyond the impact on demonstrators and bystanders, as Garnett specified in her press conference. "Policing is a vital service, and its success depends heavily on public trust and legitimacy," she said. "Aspects of the NYPD's response to the Floyd protests undermine this trust and their own legitimacy."

Police who behave as thugs aren't improving their standing at all in the minds of people who are already protesting against abusive policing. To the contrary, they harden opposition and set the ground for repeat conflicts at a time when some people are calling for entirely abolishing police and many more favor widespread reform.

The DOI report offers recommendation that will, hopefully, improve police response to future protests.

"NYPD should draft a Patrol Guide policy specific to policing protests and protected First Amendment activity," according to the report. Importantly, the guide should be developed in consultation with outside parties, including civil rights attorneys.

On the same note, the report recommends moving protest management from the Strategic Response Group and its riot-oriented Disorder Control Unit to a new Protest Response Unit. The new unit would be more community oriented and, theoretically, First Amendment-friendly.

"NYPD should develop a written policy outlining reasonable limitations on the use of disorder control tactics, such as encirclement and mass arrests, specific to their use at First Amendment-protected protests," the report adds.

Still, it's obvious that a police department is going to face challenges when addressing demonstrations aimed at its own officersespecially when tempers are simmering. "NYPD officials characterized the scope of violence, the looting, and the hostility toward police as a significant difference from past large demonstrations in the City," acknowledged DOI investigators.

That has police on the defensive and less than cooperative with efforts to reform protest response.

"When DOI asked NYPD officials whether, in retrospect, the Department could have done anything else differently and made any further changes to improve its response to the protests, with few exceptions, officials offered none," the report observes. "While some difference in views is to be expected, the wide gap between the apparent views of the Department's most senior officials and the views of members of the public who participated in the protests is troubling."

That means reform in dealing with protests and in distinguishing between peaceful demonstrators and violent rioters will probably have to come to the NYPD from the outside, without the active assistance of police officials themselves.

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  1. Thought the new standard was they only had to be 93% non excessive.

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  2. They were mostly peaceful police actions, so tots okay right?

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  3. The report pointed to indiscriminate use of force on peaceful protesters and rioters alike. That force included "encirclement (commonly called 'kettling'), mass arrests, baton and pepper spray use, and other tactics."

    "These people don't represent our movement."

    "Well... they're with you."


  4. Limitations? De-escalation? Please. Cops do whatever they want. Who's going to stop them, the police?

    1. Who stopped the looting and burning? The looters?

      1. Were the other protestors given the power and duty to use force to stop injustice?

        1. I believe that is what the looters claimed to be doing.

          1. You believe some stupid shit.

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      2. "Who stopped the looting and burning?"


        1. Not enough

          1. True.
            But it is the way.

      3. It stopped?

        1. Well, it was indefinitely stopped for at least 2 persons.

    2. Calling out the NYPD for using excessive force on protesters, as cops pretty much everywhere here in the United States, and lots of other places, is one thing. Defunding the police is a whole other matter, which doesn't make sense, because the people who reside in high-crime areas are especially in need of police protection. Reforming the police is a far better option, imho.

  5. They should just use the same force as the 'mostly peaceful protestors' since that is approved by the mavens at Reason.

  6. Deblasio endearing himself to the nypd again. He’s gonna find it hard to redistribute wealth without them.

    1. If he can't get cops to do it, there're plenty of criminals in New York who'll be more than happy to help. And there's precedent for this:
      (from earlier this year)
      "By May, New York’s mayor had already deputized hundreds of (arguably former) gang members and criminals, paying them to circulate among the general population to 'encourage' -- dare we say, intimidate? -- citizens to follow the Mayor’s [COVID-related] orders." (source)

  7. This is the kind of police misconduct you get when you elect a law'n order Republican as mayor.

  8. "New York City police officers used excessive force in their response to protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, according to a report from New York City's Department of Investigation (DOI)"

    That is the worst example of excessive force used in NYC this year? They had to go all the way back to when people were "peacefully" liberating shoes and handbags from store windows?

    1. Good point. I mean, everyone was a looter! This wasn’t at all isolated! Every single non-cop had a Molotov cocktail and gloves! The cops should have used machine guns and killed everyone!

      1. Arresting arsonists, looters and rioters, and having them hauled into a court of law, tried for and charged with whatever they were doing is one thing. Using machine guns and killing them all is going way too far!

      2. nICe fAlSE DicHOtoMY!!!!!

      3. Morons like you hold the police to a standard of surgically impacting only the bad actors while not touching the people they use for cover and camouflage surrounding them, even when the ratio turns around.

        You demand deescalation but leave open no avenue to do so as any attempt to thwart those destroying property and life is labeled as "excessive".

        You in short are demanding lawless mob rule.

    2. The problem is, even if you caught someone red-handed, breaking a window (peacefully :)) and liberating big screen TVs, no where would the punishment be a beating at the hands of the police.

      Now, if you are willing to receive a beating the next time you get a speeding ticket, we'll talk.

      1. Looters should be arrested and hauled off to the slammer, tried and charged in a court of law, and jailed for awhile, if need be.

      2. What's the punishment for failing to wear a mask or operating your business despite executive edicts, cunt?

        1. Remember in the past month or so when the NYC cops were harassing Jews for celebrating religious holidays in their own homes?

          If the city investigators do remember that then their silence speaks volumes.

        2. "What’s the punishment for failing to wear a mask or operating your business despite executive edicts, cunt?"

          We're talking about attempted mass murder with biological agents then, amirite?

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  10. Only 20 comments on this article? It's almost like nobody gives a shit what happens in New York, like New Yorkers deserve the place.

    1. Nobody lives there anymore, too crowded.

    2. "...like New Yorkers deserve the place."

      Well, a slow suicide makes it difficult to stay sympathetic and engaged. Now, if New Yorkers want to go to the roofs and threaten to jump then they can be cheered on like any good New Yorker could appreciate.

  11. Ah, yes, the usual bait-and-switch.

    The article starts out talking about "lawful First Amendment expression."

    Then it complains about how people violating the law (the curfew) were arrested.

    Now, of course, even lawbreakers have the right to not be subjected to excessive force. But an honest critic of the use of excessive force against lawbreakers doesn't start by pretending the arrested were engaged in lawful activity.

    So, now, when it goes on to claim they were peaceful protesters met with excessive force (as opposed to, say, violently resisting their lawful arrest and so provoking the use of enough force to subdue them), why should I believe it? Falso in uno, falsus in omnibus.

    1. At least the law-breaking of violating the curfew was mentioned.
      Unmentioned was the usual reason for "encirclement (commonly called 'kettling')", which is when the "peaceful" protesters have committed the crime of blocking the streets, causing disruptions to everyone else in the area. One of the things the non-"protesting" people want stopped and for which the police are present.
      Once a "protest" violates any law, it ceases to be peaceful, and loses any claimed Constitutional protection.
      Not to mention that "excessive" is a matter of interpretation.

  12. Because when a protest devolves into a riot it is super easy, barely an inconvenience, to distinguish rioters from mere protestors on the spot. Hindsight is 20/20. Riots are by definition confusing and obscure about what is actually happening in the moment. The rioters were using the protests as human shields.

  13. Sorry you dishonest cunts, those were not peaceful protests but mass riots and looting. You seem to gloss over that theft and destruction in pursuit of justifying the noble cause of cultural Marxist grievances. Come back to me when you stop standing up for the barbarians seeking to destroy western civilization acting in direct opposition to peaceful coexistence and respecting the rights, lives and property of others.

    1. C'mon, man. The peaceful protesters were there to build bridges and they even brought their own bricks and demolition tools.

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  15. The sheriff is the American institution for ensuring that law enforcement is managed by a representative of the people.

    Police are progressive concepts for eliminating representation by the people. The Sheriff swears an oath to the US Constitution. Police swear an oath to whatever government pays them.

    Police are not an American institution. Why defend them?

    Defund them. Let the taxpayers protect themselves and/or bolster the local sheriff.

    1. Well, we kind of saw what happened when the local taxpayers tried to protect themselves... so it looks like our only option in your proposal is "bolster the local sheriff".

  16. This was the excessive force the police used on people trying to paint over the BLM mural in New York?

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