New York Attorney General’s Lawsuit Against NYPD Receives Strong Support from Elected Officials, Community Groups

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit yesterday against the New York Police Department (NYPD)
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After New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit yesterday against the New York Police Department (NYPD) for excessive use of force and making false arrests against New Yorkers during peaceful protests, dozens of elected officials, community leaders, and scholars across New York came out and expressed their support for the lawsuit.

“When New Yorkers took peacefully to the streets in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, they were too often met by the police brutality and excessive force they were protesting,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (NY-10). “This pattern of abuse — so often employed by some officers in the NYPD and police forces across the nation against African-Americans — is all the more shocking when contrasted with the lenient police response that greeted white, violent extremists at our nation’s Capitol last week. I applaud Attorney General James for her efforts to root out police misconduct and support her proposal to install a monitor overseeing policing tactics at the NYPD. I look forward to working with her and doing what I can at the federal level, to address this issue and reimagine policing for our communities.”

“This year, New Yorkers peacefully marched alongside millions of others around the nation to protest systemic violence perpetuated against communities of color,” said U.S Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY-12). “These protesters were often met with violence and unwarranted force from members of the New York Police Department. I am proud to stand beside New York Attorney General Letitia James today as she files a lawsuit against those responsible for these violent actions. I am hopeful that this case will expose the shortcomings of our law enforcement organizations, begin to repair trust within our communities, and ensure that the undue use of violence by officers never happens in our city again.”

“When police officers deploy brutal and aggressive tactics against New Yorkers, it undermines the safety of our communities and causes public distrust of law enforcement,” said U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (NY-05). “Yet, even as protesters marched against the systemic and longstanding problems of excessive force in the department, those protesters were met with even more aggression. We must stamp out the use of excessive force by officers within the NYPD. I applaud Attorney General James for investigating this matter and support this lawsuit to seek injunctive relief to address these longstanding problems and failures at the NYPD, the brunt of which has been borne by diverse communities of color like the ones I represent.”

“For decades, minority communities have been subjected to an abhorrent history of racially-based over-policing and excessive use of force by the NYPD,” said U.S. Representative Yvette Clark (NY-09). “As our nation experiences a racial reckoning and increased police accountability due to the people powered social/criminal justice protest movement, I have continued my calls for the NYPD to implement sweeping systemic reforms at its most foundational levels. However, in recent months, we have seen an unwarranted increase in the use of tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and a host of other aggressive tactics that seek to stifle the ability of New Yorkers — primarily communities of color — to express their right to protest peacefully. In stark contrast to the fatal insurrection I recently experienced on Capitol Hill, where violent domestic terrorists laid siege our nation’s Capitol. Those terrorists did not experience half of the tactics mentioned above. However, many of the protests that Attorney General James mentions in the lawsuit are peaceful examples of Americans exercising their rights to free speech and protest and petitioning of their government for redress and reform. It is beyond time to act, the time for accountability is now. I support this lawsuit, and I look forward to discoveries that lead to true and lasting change.”

“I commend Attorney General Letitia James for her righteous investigation into the NYPD's brutal display of force during last summer's massive protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, during which thousands of New Yorkers marched against the very same police violence inflicted on Black people,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “Her public hearings further amplified the voices of those who were subjected to the NYPD's disturbing strategies, like kettling and the excessive force we witnessed, as well as the targeting of legal observers and support service providers. The attorney general's lawsuit will rightfully hold law enforcement accountable for inflicting violence on New Yorkers, whose right to peacefully protest is sacred.”

“Last summer, New Yorkers watched in horror as peaceful protestors were on the receiving end of excessive force, violent crowd-control tactics and unlawful arrests from NYPD officers,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “I applaud Attorney General James for filing this important lawsuit, and I strongly support her efforts to root out long-standing patterns of abuse by the NYPD, to protect the First Amendment rights of all New Yorkers, and to restore the community’s faith in policing.”

“The police are there to enforce the law, not to break it, or to be above it. If it is proven that they have systematically used excessive force, unlawful detention, kettling, and improper tactics against peaceful protesters then they need to be held accountable, and the attorney general has an obligation to look into these allegations,” said State Senator James Sanders, Jr. “If police commit wrongdoing and are not held accountable then it undermines the community’s faith in them. During these protests, there were a lot of tough situations with a lot of moving parts and under those conditions strong leadership was necessary, but that does not excuse any police impropriety that may have taken place.”

“The rift between communities of color in New York City and the law enforcement officers sworn to protect us will never be truly healed until we achieve justice in the form of transparency and accountability,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie. “This is why, last summer, my colleagues and I in the state legislature passed a historic slate of police reforms, including the repeal of 50-a.”

“I would like to thank Attorney General Letitia James for her leadership in filing a lawsuit against the NYPD’s policies and tactics,” said State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey. “I believe this will lead to more transparency and accountability within the force and ensure that our communities are treated fairly and are not driven by racist policies and actions. I thank Attorney General James for her steadfast commitment to justice and fairness.”

“I applaud Attorney General James’ efforts to right the wrongs of police brutality that have been so urgently highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement,” said State Senator Brian Benjamin. “Installing a monitor to oversee our police department is a huge step in the right direction as we look to redefine accountability and create a safer city for all New Yorkers.”

“This summer we witnessed devastating police brutality against peaceful protesters and bystanders at the hands of the NYPD,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi. “The barbaric behavior of the NYPD reveals deeper structural and systematic issues with our approach to policing and the increasing militarization of our police force. I commend Attorney General Letitia James for her unwavering leadership to protect the civil rights of New Yorkers and to hold accountable the people and institutions that violate those rights. I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the New York state legislature to pass meaningful legislation to eradicate institutionalized racism and violence within law enforcement.”

“The actions of some police officers against peaceful protesters in the Black Lives Matter marches last year clearly violated the rights of New Yorkers, a fact that both the mayor and police commissioner have acknowledged,” said State Senator John Liu. “Owning up to it isn’t enough, though, and external review is essential to ensure the long-term systematic changes needed to make our city truly safe for all. I am grateful to Attorney General James for her efforts and conscientiousness in this important matter and concur with her actions and recommendations.”

“A systemic problem requires a systemic response. The police misconduct we saw on our streets last summer were not the rogue actions of one or two misguided officers; they reflected a longstanding pattern of abuse, excessive use of force, and unjustifiable actions that violated the rights of peaceful demonstrators exercising their constitutional rights,” said State Senator Zellnor Myrie. “The incidents last summer — along with countless others before and since — and the inconsistent, insufficient reactions from One Police Plaza and City Hall demonstrate the need for external, independent oversight.”

“As reflected in the landmark criminal justice reforms that were enacted over the past several years, the New York state legislature has made clear that we must hold all law enforcement officers to the highest standards of professional conduct and public duty,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Codes. “The allegations made by individuals involved in the protests this past summer are deeply concerning and, if true, indicate that there are institutional problems within the NYPD that have resulted in officers being unprepared for these types of responses. While we know that the overwhelming majority of those in law enforcement are professional and effective, there are exceptions. Thank you to Attorney General Letitia James for investigating these allegations, and I look forward to a resolution that ensures the safety of both the police and those who are being policed.”

“The nation saw the shocking videos splashed all over social media of unprovoked law enforcement officers responding with unnecessary and excessive use of force against mostly peaceful, civil rights protesters this summer,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. “The actions of those bad officers erode the public’s trust in the police force as a whole. To help restore that trust, decisive action must be taken to hold those officers accountable. The bold leadership of Attorney General Letitia James will help improve police and community relations, protect the rights of New Yorkers to engage in peaceful protest, and hopefully make the city a safer place in which to live and work.”

“This summer the NYPD violated international human rights law, suppressed New Yorkers’ constitutional rights, violently lashed out at peaceful protesters, and drove an SUV into a crowd,” said Assemblymember Dan Quart. “Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea responded by ignoring, excusing, and further enabling this misconduct. I’m grateful for the leadership of Attorney General Letitia James, who has rejected business as usual and refused to sweep this appalling behavior under the rug. As long as accountability remains the exception and not the rule, the NYPD should absolutely answer to an independently appointed monitor.”

“I commend New York Attorney General Letitia James for her steadfast commitment to systemic reforms and pursuing justice for the victims of the NYPD’s illegal and harmful conduct,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright. “I am proud to have cosponsored and strongly supported police reforms repealing 50-a, criminalizing false reporting, and enshrining the attorney general as special prosecutor in police misconduct cases.”

“It is time that we hold aggressors responsible and put an end to the injustice faced by Black and Brown communities,” said Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa. “For far too long, Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately harmed by racism, broken windows policing, and excessive force at the hands of law enforcement. This summer, we saw Black communities and allies throughout the nation exercise their first amendment rights in the form of peaceful protests and objections to the historic violence inflicted on Black bodies and communities. Despite these peaceful demands for change, members of the NYPD met protesters with violence, excessive force, and irreparable traumas. This pattern of behavior is unacceptable, especially from an agency that continues to be overfunded, and we must hold responsible parties accountable. I support Attorney General James’ lawsuit against the NYPD and I stand with the Black Live Matter Movement, Black committees, and all impacted families; our people deserve reparations, justice, and change!”

“I commend Attorney General Letitia James for working to hold the New York Police Department accountable for excessive force,” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “Our law enforcement officials have a responsibility to protect and serve our communities. However, there is irrefutable evidence that the NYPD was the perpetrator of countless incidents of police brutality, murder, and institutional racism. The actions of the NYPD have eroded the trust between law enforcement officials and our communities of color. Holding our law enforcement officials accountable for misconduct is a critical step towards securing long overdue police reform in New York state. I am proud to be part of this movement for equality and systemic change. As the legislature returns to session, I will continue to work with my colleagues and the attorney feneral to pass real law enforcement reform that promotes transparency and accountability.”

“I applaud Attorney General James for this important first step in holding the NYPD accountable for its deplorable actions towards Black Lives Matter protesters,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. “With Attorney General James’ leadership and the strength of the advocacy community, I believe we can win major changes to policing as we know it.”

“Our officers take an oath to protect us; yet, we know that there has always been a double standard as it relates to who the police actually serve,” said Assemblymember Nathalia Fernández. “I commend Attorney General Letitia James for taking steps to ensure that the NYPD is held accountable for their egregious actions. It is clear the entire department needs a full-scale culture change — that should be a priority of the next mayor and police commissioner as we must take steps to rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement.”

“The NYPD has a long and sordid history of suppressing the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters,” said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. “While the nation's largest police force claims that its duty is to protect and serve, it has done nothing but terrorize and violate the rights of activists who are simply seeking equality for Black and Brown communities. Last summer's protests, which put a spotlight on police brutality after the killing of George Floyd, highlighted the irony of the situation as elected officials at the highest level of government turned our city into a militarized police state. I commend Attorney General Letitia James for taking action against one of the most egregious civil rights violations of our time, and I look forward to working with her office to ensure that our city’s leadership and the NYPD are held accountable.”

“I applaud the attorney general’s diligent action with holding the NYPD accountable for participating in a pattern of excessive violence, lawlessness, and recklessness at the expense of peaceful protestors and essential workers standing up for racial justice last summer,” said Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson. “These findings, while disturbing, are not surprising — and serve only to further inflame tensions between the police and community. I stand in full support of an external monitor to ensure increased oversight and true accountability of the NYPD.”

“The unmitigated brutality and excessive force we witnessed this summer at the hands of the NYPD against peaceful protesters reflects a disturbing and longstanding pattern of systemic failures that allow such abuses,” said Assemblymember Kenny Burgos. “Make no mistake, there are incredible officers who put their lives on the line every day, but no objective observer could watch the violence we saw and deem it remotely acceptable. I salute Attorney General James for her bold and compassionate leadership in this lawsuit, and for using the power of our judicial system to hold the NYPD accountable, protect the civil rights of New Yorkers, and restore some semblance of trust in our law enforcement.”

“Thank you, Attorney General James, for taking the necessary steps to hold these parties accountable. I, unfortunately, know all too well what excessive force looks like in my community,” said Assemblymember Chantel Jackson. “Just last summer, I watched our police officers rough up young men for not wearing masks. I watched officers beat and detain peaceful protestors for supposedly violating the mayor’s curfew even though it was more than 10 minutes before curfew, while they simultaneously blocked those same protesters into one space. I watched elected officials get maced by officers for peaceful protesting and just plain terrorize Black, Brown, and poor communities because officers knew no one would reprimand them. I support, and I thank my attorney general for continuously fighting for the voiceless.”

“I am deeply grateful to Attorney General James for her leadership when it comes to holding the NYPD and City Hall accountable for their systemic failures responding to the protests that swept through the five boroughs in the spring and summer of last year,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “Police accountability is key to our ongoing efforts to reimagine public safety in our city, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the council and in state government to bring real, lasting change to policing in New York City.”

“I want to thank Attorney General James for taking such a bold step in bringing a lawsuit against the NYPD for their actions during last summer's protests, and against the de Blasio administration for its failures to prevent the NYPD's aggressive tactics and ensure transparency and accountability,” said New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “This suit is one element of a vital movement to restructure how our police force operates and to re-define public safety itself. I am dedicated to continuing that work and advancing that movement with allies such as the attorney general, those in city and state government, and on the streets of New York City.”

“The images we saw of overly aggressive policing at peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were disturbing,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “I commend Attorney General James for advancing our shared mission of justice and equity within every corner of the NYPD.”

“The actions of the NYPD, last summer, during the racial injustice demonstrations are well documented,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “It's clear that reforms are needed, and the attorney general's lawsuit and proposed remedies are a big step toward that end.”

“Following the death of George Floyd our city saw a desperate need to re-evaluate the way the New York City Police Department handles peaceful protests,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “Over the summer, we saw thousands of New Yorkers met with the excessive use of force when they took to the streets to peacefully protest. Our relationship with the police must be based on trust and not confrontation. I want to thank Attorney General James for taking important steps towards accountability, so that we can move forward together.”

“New Yorkers watched police officers engage in unjust and inhumane behavior against the public time and time again,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “There needs to be a culture shift at the New York Police Department, an idea I championed while I was chair of the New York City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Officers should not disgrace their badges, should let civilians peacefully protest and engage in their communities, and realize that their actions have consequences. No one is above the law, including the New York Police Department. I thank New York Attorney General Letitia James for taking a stand and ensuring the NYPD will be held accountable.”

“The whole world saw the videos: too many peaceful protesters were met with NYPD tactics that were excessively violent, antagonistic, and sometimes even outright vindictive,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Whether it was kettling or plainclothes officers snatching non-violent protestors off the street, the NYPD overstepped. We need a police department that is able to admit when mistakes are made and does not ratchet up the violence. I support seeking systematic change at the NYPD from the top down and hope that an independent monitor is appointed to ensure we get the change our city needs. Thank you to Attorney General Letitia James for filing this lawsuit.”

“I am grateful that Attorney General James is taking a leadership role on fixing the systemic problems of the NYPD,” said New York City Council Member Mark Levine. “There is far too little accountability in the department today for the misconduct by its officers during their response to the George Floyd protests, including, most troublingly, excessive use of force. The possibly illegal and unwanted tactics used by the NYPD must be accounted for — it is the only way to achieve justice in policing and win the trust of communities.”

“In the several days of national rage that followed George Floyd's murder, we witnessed demonstrative, impassioned, but non-violent appeals for racial justice in our own city encounter forms of police brutality that met the definition of cruelty,” said Council Member Daneek Miller, chair of New York City Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus. “The mayor and police Commissioner's state of denial during that period did lasting damage to their efforts to rehabilitate the NYPD's image and cultivate public safety enhancing partnerships with the community. It is clear that this administration can no longer be left to its own devices in holding officers who cross the line accountable, and Attorney General James is to be commended for using her authority to pursue legal remedies imposed by the court.”

“It's clear: no one should be above the law, not even our own police department,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “This lawsuit helps us bring necessary accountability after New Yorkers saw excessive force, harassment, and false arrests during Black Lives Matter Protests this summer. The time for words in the face of misconduct is over. That's why I'm proud to support Attorney General James’ quest for justice and accountability from the NYPD.”

“Public servants, including law enforcement, are accountable to the people of New York City,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “It is critical that police officers operate with a high level of integrity and responsibility as misconduct is contrary to the very mission of the NYPD and should be addressed with swift and consistent discipline. The only way to restore public trust is with transparency and accountability. I applaud Attorney General James for addressing these longstanding issues.”

“New Yorkers need to know that any individual that engaged in unacceptable behavior will be held responsible,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “That’s our duty as public officials. Thank you to Attorney General James for pushing for much-needed accountability.”

“I want to thank Attorney General James for filing this important lawsuit against the NYPD for their excessive use of force and misconduct during peaceful protests in 2020,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “It's completely unacceptable that the city has done so little to hold the NYPD accountable for these illegal and dangerous actions, and it's clear that we need a complete overhaul of police involvement and tactics at protests, as well as an outside monitor, to ensure that these shameful actions are never repeated again.”

“The lawsuit filed today by New York Attorney Letitia James confirms the painful truth that we have known for years,” said Council Member Farah Louis. “Members of the NYPD have persistently used excessive force without hesitation or meaningful consequence — particularly against Black and Brown New Yorkers. It is shameful that peaceful protesters pursuing racial justice experienced unthinkable violence inflicted by those sworn to protect and serve eerily similar to the events that occurred during the civil rights movement. Although a court of law could never erase the trauma or scars, it is a critical step forward in reforming policing tactics that have done more harm than good in our communities. On the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, we can be hopeful that justice will prevail.”

“The attorney general's lawsuit against the NYPD is a welcomed sight! It's high time for the NYPD to face accountability for its brutal crackdown on anti-police brutality protests held this summer,” said Conrad Blackburn, staff attorney of the Immigration Defense Practice, Bronx Defender. “If the events of the past two weeks have taught us anything as a nation, it is that anti-democratic actions by our public servants must not go unanswered.”

“Nearly a decade after LatinoJustice successfully sued the NYPD for racial profiling in Ligon v. City of New York, the department’s racial bias is still on full display,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel, LatinoJusticePRLDEF. “This summer, the department targeted peaceful demonstrators — particularly people of color — for arrest and violence. We thank Attorney General James for bringing this lawsuit to hold NYPD officials accountable and seek an independent monitor for an out-of-control department.”

“We applaud Attorney General Letitia James for taking this critical step towards holding Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Shea, and the NYPD accountable for the wanton and systemic abuses of New Yorkers' constitutional rights last summer,” said Keith Fuller, member of Make the Road New York. “During the Black Lives Matter protests, New Yorkers who took to the streets suffered abusive and brutal tactics from the NYPD. By failing to rein in or hold the NYPD accountable for its violent repression, the mayor has reinforced the NYPD's role in maintaining inequality and upholding white supremacy. We welcome this step from the attorney general, and we will continue to organize with those most impacted by police violence and oppression to reduce the power, scope, and reach of the NYPD in our communities.”

“New York County Defender Services applauds the attorney general’s decision to file a lawsuit against the NYPD,” said Stan Germán, executive director of New York County Defender Services. “The NYPD must be held accountable for the violent and unjustifiable attacks perpetrated against George Floyd protesters. Our trial attorneys represented 72 people in protest-related arrests in the immediate aftermath of the protests. Our clients were targeted for arrest because of the color of their skin — the vast majority were youth of color under age 25 and only five percent were white. Many reported violence at the hands of police and long delays before they were allowed to contact family or consult with an attorney. The NYPD have abused people of color and lawful protesters in this city for decades with impunity — we hope this lawsuit will force the courts to hold them to account.”

“The attorney general and New York City's Department of Investigations and Law Department have all released reports with details of the horrific violence and abuse the NYPD perpetrated against New Yorkers last summer. But while government reports help affirm and expose what Black and other New Yorkers of color have long known, it's long past time for real action,” said Mark Winston Griffith, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform and executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center. “We applaud Attorney General James for going beyond reports and suing Mayor de Blasio, New York City, and the NYPD for their unjustifiable mass violence against protesters. Mayor de Blasio and NYPD leadership enabled, enacted, condoned, and excused repeated mass violence against New Yorkers who were exercising their First Amendment rights last year, with no accountability for misconduct. 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. Given our long experience suing the NYPD and organizing against police violence in this city, we know that lasting change from this litigation will require that organizations like ours — that are led by Black, Latinx, and other communities of color who regularly experience police violence at protests and in our communities — are able to act as an independent counterweight to any monitor appointed by the court. Nothing can replace the expertise and leadership of our communities when it comes to combating NYPD violence.”

“CSS applauds Attorney General James for bringing this important lawsuit to correct very troubling behavior on the part of the NYPD and its leadership,” said David R. Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society (CSS) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Member. “We've seen excessive use of force at all levels of NYPD engagement with the public it allegedly protects and serves, from protest actions to fare evasion stops. Black and Brown New Yorkers bear the brunt of this unconscionable conduct. This must stop.”

“I applaud New York Attorney General Letitia James for making this move to sue the NYPD and install an independent monitor,” said Rev. Kevin McCall, founding president of Crisis Action Center. “We have been screaming ‘No Justice No Peace’ peacefully while the NYPD used tactics of excessive force against protesters who were marching following the death of George Floyd.”

“This summer, the country watched as the NYPD brutalized marchers for Black lives. They beat, batoned, punched, shoved, and pepper-sprayed demonstrators,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, executive director, Brooklyn Defender Services. “They drove cars into crowds, targeted organizers and marchers for the content of their speech, and assaulted legal observers, among other abuses captured on video and recounted by participants in the protests. The allegations set forth in the attorney general’s lawsuit are just the most recent evidence of the NYPD’s failed and abusive policies and practices that endanger the lives and safety of our communities, both during mass demonstrations and in the daily lives of New Yorkers. We applaud Attorney General James for using her authority to call attention to this egregious pattern and urge the court to hold the NYPD accountable.”

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