NY attorney general sues NYPD over Floyd protest response

Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit includes dozens of examples of alleged misconduct during the spring demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s police killing

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New York’s attorney general sued the New York Police Department on Thursday, calling the rough treatment of protesters against racial injustice last spring part of a longstanding pattern of abuse that stemmed from inadequate training, supervision and discipline.

Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit includes dozens of examples of alleged misconduct during the spring demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s police killing, including the use of pepper spray and batons on protesters, trapping demonstrators with a technique called kettling and arresting medics and legal observers.

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“We found a pattern of deeply concerning and unlawful practices that the NYPD utilized in response to these largely peaceful protests,” James said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.

NY Attorney General Letitia James Visits Rochester As Office Investigates Death Of Daniel Prude
New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference about the ongoing investigation into the death of Daniel Prude on September 20, 2020 in Rochester, New York. Prude, who is Black, died March 30 after being taken off life support following his arrest by Rochester police. (Photo by Joshua Rashaad McFadden/Getty Images)

James, a Democrat, 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 issued a preliminary report in July that cited a “clear breakdown of trust between police and the public.”

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.

People participate in a protest to mark the five year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner during a confrontation with a police officer in the borough of Staten Island on July 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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.

A civil rights organization and a city watchdog agency have also criticized the department’s actions.

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Human Rights Watch issued a report in November citing evidence that police planned an aggressive crackdown on protesters on June 4 in the Bronx.

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.

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