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New York Attorney General James Sues NYC Mayor, NYPD Over Black Lives Matter Response

— January 19, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James says the NYPD has had years to reform its officers but has failed to take any appreciable steps to do so.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has taken the drastic step of suing New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the New York Police Department over allegations the city responded to Black Lives Matter protests with excessive force and unreasonable violence.

Reuters reports that the lawsuit was filed with U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

In it, James states that police repeatedly—and without justification—used batons, chemical suppressants, and other unnecessarily aggressive tactics against New York residents protesting the summertime slaying of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Despite numerous protesters requiring hospitalization for broken bones and other injuries, the overwhelming majority of New York police officers suspected of brutality have faced no criminal charges or disciplinary measures.

Alongside excessive force, James has also accused the New York Police Department of illegally detaining protesters without cause.

At issue, notes Reuters, is the NYPD’s employment of a controversial riot-control technique called “kettling.” As LegalReader has reported before, “kettling” occurs when police officers form a physical cordon around a group of protesters. The cordon, often comprised of shield-and-baton-bearing officers, allows officers to selectively hold protesters in one place.

Kettling maneuvers are often followed by mass, arbitrary arrests.

New York Attorney General and former city council member Letitia James. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Matthew Cohen. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Responding to the lawsuit, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said he and his office support police reform but must oppose James’s complaint.

“A court process and the added bureaucracy of a federal monitor will not speed up this work,” DeBlasio said. “There is no time to waste and we will continue to press forward.”

Police advocates have also tried to deflect blame. Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association—New York City’s largest law enforcement union—said officers’ haphazard response was a consequence of the city’s poor leadership and lack of coordinating direction.

“They sent cops out to police unprecedented protests and violent riots with no plan, no strategy, and no support,” Lynch told The New York Times. “They should be forced to answer for the resulting chaos, instead of pointing fingers at cops on the streets and ignoring the criminals who attacked us with bricks and firebombs.”

However, James has said that DeBlasio and police officials’ promises and protests have not been backed up by any discernible action.

“There was ample ability and opportunity for the city and NYPD leadership to make important changes to the ways that officers interact with peaceful protesters, but time and time again, they did not,” James said in a statement.

“They did not train, they did not supervise, they did not stop officers who engaged in this misconduct,” she added. “And they did not discipline them either. Instead, they failed the people of the City of New York.”


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