After George Floyd‘s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, protests erupted around the world, causing further examples of police brutality to be caught on camera amongst demonstrators.
One police department that faced major criticism was the New York City Police Department when brutal clips showed incidents like officers shoving pedestrians to the ground and police vehicles driving into protesters.
Such incidents caused New York Attorney General Letitia James to carry out a report on the NYPD, which assessed their performance during protests. The report, entitled “New York City Police Department’s Response to Demonstrations Following the Death of George Floyd,” concludes that “too many New Yorkers no longer trust the police to do their jobs effectively and fairly.”
The report also shows clear racial disparities when it comes to how people were charged if arrested. According to the report, from May 28 to June 7, there were 2,087 arrest related to protests, which is an average of 190 per day. A huge majority of the arrests occurred in Manhattan.
Of the people arrested, 44% were white while 39% were Black. Significantly more Black protesters were charged with a felony, however. According to the report, 15.66% of protesters charged with a felony were Black while just 3.57% of those with felony charges were white. Latino folks made up 7.75% of the felony charges while Asian folks made up 3.39%.
The report suggests that a majority of the felony arrests were because of the “plundering of businesses.”
“As the number of arrests increased in the early days of the protests, the proportion of arrests charged as felonies also sharply increased from just under seven percent of all arrests on the first day of the protest to nearly 24 percent on May 31, when there was widespread plundering of businesses,” the report reads.
The report also went on to say that “the severity of the charges for those arrested dropped” significantly when the 8 p.m. curfew on June 2 was enacted, “suggesting that the majority of arrests were for violating the curfew and peacefully protesting, as opposed to violence and plundering businesses. Nearly a quarter of all arrests on May 31 were for felonies, but by June 2 that figure was only three percent.”
Back in June, James heard testimonies from protesters who said NYPD officers used pepper spray in an indiscriminate and excessive manner on various occasions. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea denied these allegations, saying officers exercised “incredible restraint” throughout the protests. He even defended the police officers who drove into protestors, according to Reuters, saying, “The officers were set upon and attacked, and thankfully they were able to get out of that situation with, to my knowledge, no injuries to anyone.” He said fewer than 10 officer were being disciplined for excessive or problematic behavior.
The NYPD report comes as protestors around the country are calling for cities to defund the police and invest money into community resources such as violence interruption programs, housing and healthcare. Last week, demonstrators occupied City Hall in New York ahead of the city’s budget hearing. Mayor Bill de Blasio ended up cutting the NYPD’s budget by $1 billion, however, many activists argued that the move didn’t go far enough in diminishing the power of the police, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the attorney general office’s report made its own suggestions to address the police’s interactions with communities. One suggestion involves an independent NYPD oversight commission that has the authority to approve the NYPD’s budget and the power to hire and fire NYPD leadership, including the commissioner.
The report also argues that cops in New York should be certified through a process that allows the “decertifying” of officers engaged in misconduct, preventing them from remaining a cop or being rehired by another department in the state.