The NYPD’s use of excessive force "likely escalated tensions" during George Floyd protests across the city, according to a newly published report by NYC's inspector general.
The 111-page document states the city's police department "lacked a clearly defined strategy tailored to respond to the large scale protests" sparked by the series of 2020 police killings of unarmed Black people. The probe was authorized by Mayor Bill de Blasio back in May, after countless social media videos showed officers using excessive crowd tactics on demonstrators. Footage showed police hitting, shoving, and tackling civilians, as well as spraying them with chemical irritants. On multiple occasions, officers were also filmed driving their police vehicles through crowds during Black Lives Matter protests.
Per the Department of Investigation's report:
NYPD’s use of force on protesters—encirclement (commonly called “kettling”), mass arrests, baton and pepper spray use, and other tactics—reflected a failure to calibrate an appropriate balance between valid public safety or officer safety interests and the rights of protesters to assemble and express their views. The inconsistent application of the curfew similarly generated legitimate public concerns about selective enforcement.
Though the report states the majority of the demonstrations were peaceful, the number of violent confrontations between police and civilians was due to several factors. The document points out that the NYPD was understaffed at the time BLM protests began sweeping the city and determined many of the officers who were deployed to the protests lacked sufficient training on how to properly handle large demonstrations and employ de-escalation tactics.
Investigators say the NYPD's issue of excessive force is primarily due to the overlapping agencies that oversee the department. The document recommended the creation of a single independent agency that will handle "complaints from the public and recommend discipline of individual officers," as well as "conduct systemic reviews of NYPD policy and practices and make recommendations for reform."
Mayor de Blasio responded to the report in a video posted on social media Friday morning. The Democratic lawmaker said he agreed with the report's assessment and expressed regret for not taking action sooner.
"I look back with remorse. I wish I had done better," he said. "I want everyone to understand that. And I’m sorry I didn’t do better. And I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons. And I want our police department to do better. And I’m going to insist upon that.”