NYPD agrees to reform protest tactics in settlement over George Floyd protest response

In a first-of-its-kind agreement, the New York Attorney General’s office, the Legal Aide Society, and the New York Civil Liberties Union say the NYPD will reform its use of force tactics and the way police respond to protestors.

It’s a move that, according to a press release, will "protect the public and members of the press from excessive use of force."

The agreement is a settlement of a number of civil rights lawsuits brought in response to the NYPD’s tactics used during the George Floyd protests in 2020.

"Police kitted out in riot gear when the people standing on the other side next to them are just holding signs," says Legal Aid Society attorney Corey Stoughton. "It's that kind of aggressive police response to protests that triggered a lot of the violence that we saw in the summer of 2020 and that this settlement is really aiming to put an end to."

The reforms will end the practice known as "kettling"—where police circled a crowd with barricades then arrested them. 

The policies also aim to minimize police presence.. and they require police to use de-escalation methods before increasing response.

"What we continue to see at protests even today is the NYPD overcompensating in their response to protest," Stoughton said. 

"Today's settlement represents a novel approach to policing protests that, if implemented faithfully by the NYPD, will ensure that protesters are never again met with the sort of indiscriminate violence and retaliatory over-policing New York saw in the summer of 2020," said Attorney General Letitia James.

"This agreement will ensure that peaceful protesters can make their voices heard without fear, intimidation, or harm."

Mayor Eric Adams voiced his support in a pre-recorded video message.

"I spent my entire career fighting for police reform and accountability, and this agreement is another step in making the reforms necessary," Adams said. "The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental part of American freedom. And this agreement sets new protocols and policies in place for the NYPD during spontaneous protests. It will ensure that we are protecting public safety during these spontaneous demonstrations, while also respecting protesters First Amendment rights."

But the police officers’ union, the Police Benevolent Association, is not signing on to the plan because, according to a statement from president Patrick Hendry, "We have serious concerns about its impact on the safety of police officers and all New Yorkers in future situations involving coordinated violent actions," Hendry wrote. "Once again, police officers on the street are being left to bear all the burden of so-called ‘solutions’ to problems we didn’t create, while the real causes of the chaos remain unaddressed."

In terms of when the new policy will be implemented, the Legal Aid Society says they'll start right away. And-- for the next three years-- Legal Aid and the City Department of Investigation will be overseeing it.