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New York AG Accused of 'Pointing Fingers' as She Sues NYPD Over Handling of George Floyd Unrest

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New York’s attorney general sued the New York Police Department on Thursday over its response to protest and riots last summer, drawing praise from several advocacy groups and censure from New York police officials.

Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit includes dozens of examples of alleged misconduct during the unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death, including the use of pepper spray and batons and arresting medics and observers.

“We found a pattern of deeply concerning and unlawful practices that the NYPD utilized in response to these largely peaceful protests,” James said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit.

James, a Democrat, was tasked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with investigating whether NYPD officers used excessive force to quell unrest and enforce Mayor Bill de Blasio’s nightly curfew. She issued a preliminary report in July that cited a “clear breakdown of trust between police and the public.”

James is seeking reforms including the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing tactics at future protests and a court order declaring that the practices the department used during the unrest were unlawful.

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The lawsuit in federal court named the city, de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and Chief Terence Monahan as defendants.

De Blasio said he met with James on Wednesday and that they share the goal of pushing for major police reforms. However, he said he did not agree a lawsuit was the solution.

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

John Miller, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said James’ lawsuit “doesn’t seem to meet the standard for a federal monitor, and it doesn’t seem to illustrate a pattern and practice” as required.

Do you agree with the decision to sue the New York Police Department?

James’ lawsuit is the second major legal action to stem from the NYPD’s handling of the unrest.

In October, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society sued the city on behalf of protesters who say they were assaulted and abused by police.

A civil rights organization and a city watchdog agency have also criticized the department’s actions.

Mark Winston Griffith, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform applauded the lawsuit, saying, “NYPD violence against protesters is a long-standing problem and it’s a credit to Attorney General James that she’s using the power of her office to challenge the systemic lack of accountability for this violence.”

In a joint statement, the NYCLU and Legal Aid Society said: “We hope this will be the beginning of a serious reckoning over police violence and militarized use of force against protesters, especially people of color, and a check on the impunity many officers have come to see as their right.”

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The head of the city’s largest police union blamed a “failure of New York City’s leadership” for sending officers “to police unprecedented protests and violent riots with no plan, no strategy and no support.”

“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,” Police Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said.


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