The NYPD has consented to revamp how it responds to protests as part of a settlement announced Tuesday that resolves federal suits filed over its response to the 2020 George Floyd demonstrations.
“Today’s agreement, stemming from the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, sets new protocols and policies in place for the NYPD when responding to spontaneous protests as we ensure that we are both protecting public safety and respecting protesters’ First Amendment rights,” Mayor Eric Adams declared in a statement.
If approved by a Manhattan judge, the deal will end a crowd-control tactic known as “kettling,” a term that describes officers barricading in protesters before taking actions towards them, like making arrests.
The NYPD will establish a new “four-tiered” strategy of dealing with protests. It would start with a hands-off approach to “peaceful protests,” but would still let the department escalate its response if officers find a demonstration to be dangerous, illegal, or obstructive.
The city’s new protest response plan will still let officers to pen in specific people who they view as dangerous or to have committed criminal activity. Boxing in a large group of people without having “individualized probable cause” to arrest them will no longer be allowed, the mayor’s office said.
The deal also requires the NYPD to create a new senior role within the department to oversee the city’s protest responses. This compliance officer should have an “extensive knowledge” of how the NYPD can respond to protests without violating the constitutional right to assemble, court papers state.
The settlement puts to rest the lawsuits filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the Legal Aid Society, New York Civil Liberties Union and other activists who contested that the NYPD used excessive force in its response to protests that formed across New York City as unrest spread nationwide following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.