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New York police abused demonstrators at George Floyd protest, report finds

New York police abused demonstrators at George Floyd protest, report finds
Demonstrators scuffle with NYPD police officers as they try to march trough Times Square during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in New York City, New York, US, on June 14, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK - An independent New York City police review board has recommended that the department punish dozens of officers for excessive use of force and other alleged misconduct during protests that followed the 2020 murder of George Floyd, according to a report released on Monday (Feb 6).

Among the complaints, officers were found to have used batons and pepper spray on peaceful protesters in 140 instances. Dozens of allegations of abuse of authority, including officers refusing to identify themselves, concealing their badges and making false or misleading statements, were also substantiated, the report by Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) said.

More than 600, or 43 per cent, of misconduct allegations were closed after officers could not be identified, raising a big obstacle in the board's review, the report said.

"This report shows why the NYPD cannot continue to have a monopoly on discipline," Molly Biklen, deputy legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. "When New Yorkers took to the streets calling for racial justice in 2020, the NYPD responded with violence."

Thousands of protesters flooded New York streets for weeks in demonstrations against police brutality days after Floyd, a Black man accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died when a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground with a knee for several minutes in May 2020. Smaller-scale protests continued into early fall.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) objected to many of the report's findings, saying less than 15per cent of all allegations were substantiated. In a statement, it accused the board of exaggerating the extent of any misconduct, saying it involved less than 1per cent of 22,000 officers deployed during the protests.

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The less that 15 per cent substantiation rate of allegations against officers confirms "that the NYPD’s response to the protests during the summer of 2020 was largely professional, commendable, and responsive to the unique circumstances that were present at the time," NYPD Acting Deputy Commissioner Carrie Talansky said in a statement.

Hundreds of officers were injured and the department had already implemented many of the 17 policy changes recommended by the board, NYPD said.

"Protests against police brutality bred more instances of police misconduct," CCRB Interim Chair Arva Rice said in the report. "If this misconduct goes unaddressed, it will never be reformed."

Of the 146 officers cited by the report, 89 of them should face internal charges, which can result in termination. The board recommended discipline, which can include the loss of vacation days, for the other 57 officers.

The board, composed of 15 members appointed by the mayor, city council and police commissioner, has the power to conduct administrative prosecutions, but the commissioner has final say over any discipline.

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