The New York Police Department’s aggressive response to protests after the death of George Floyd heightened tensions and undermined public trust in the ability of the police to protect citizens’ rights, found a probe by the Department of Investigation, Politico reports. NYPD officers used “excessive enforcement” against protesters — including kettling, or hemming in a group of demonstrators, mass arrests, and employing batons and pepper spray, the report said. It said the “use of force and certain crowd control tactics to respond to the Floyd protests produced excessive enforcement that contributed to heightened tensions.”
“The problems went beyond poor judgment or misconduct by some individual officers,” said DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett. “The NYPD as an institution made a number of key errors or omissions that likely escalated tensions and the potential for violence, and certainly contributed to a public perception that the department was suppressing rather than facilitating lawful First Amendment assembly and expression.” Some protests turned chaotic, and widespread looting took place on a few nights in Manhattan and the Bronx. Police were criticized for both failing to stop the looting and using excessive force against peaceful protesters. NYPD was selective in its enforcement of an 8 p.m. curfew imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio after nights of chaos, sometimes allowing protesters to remain on the street and other times arresting them en masse. Most of the officers deployed had not received recent training in policing protesting, for many, not since they graduated from the police academy. In a seven-minute video on Twitter, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who largely defended the police response at the time, said he agrees with the report and apologized for his handling of the protests.