Protests have never been unfamiliar to the NYPD, and responding to them are no longer a free for all for law enforcement. In the recent settlement made this year for the 2020 protests in reaction to the death of George Floyd, this includes no more penning or “kettling” towards large groups of activists.
This legal agreement was made in a Manhattan federal court had discussed of kittling – a term that describes of officers barricading in protesters before arresting which was approved to be prohibited in enforcing.
The NYPD will also create a new “four-tiered” strategy of dealing with protests according to the New York Post, making an approach with no physical contact towards “peaceful protests,” but the opportunity still exists to respond in their best idea if demonstrations are “violent.”
“Today's agreement, stemming from the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, sets new protocols and policies in place for the NYPD when responding to spontaneous protests as we ensure that we are both protecting public safety and respecting protesters' First Amendment rights,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement.
The plan under the city will allow officers to kettle for “dangerous protests,” but not for large groups without “individualized probable cause,” the mayor's office said.
According to the New York Post, “The deal also requires the NYPD to create a new, senior role within the department to oversee the city's response to protests. The compliance officer should have an “extensive knowledge” of how the NYPD can respond to protests without trampling on demonstrators constitutional rights to assemble, court papers state.”
Lawsuits against NYPD from civil groups such as the Legal Aid Society and New York Civil Liberties Union to New York Attorney General Letitia James have stopped now due to the settlement as the main argument was excessive forces was used in response towards protests, making unrest spread throughout the country.
During one such demonstration, in the Bronx on March 4, 2020, more than 300 protesters were confined in a barricade for several minutes before officers charged them, pepper-spraying and beating several of them, the protestors later claimed in a federal lawsuit, according to the New York Post.
Officers will use a new “four-tiered” system for responding to demonstrations and can escalate their response if protestors are blocking traffic or doing something deemed dangerous or illegal, according to reporter Christopher Sadowski.
NYC has agreed to pay $6 million or $21,500 each for those impacted by police violence during those protests. This was the highest per-person amount awarded in a mass-arrest class-action lawsuit in city history.
At the time, former Mayor Bill de Blasio had been on the side with cops when kittling was criticized even after the protests, but had also said that NYPD was wrong for arresting legal observers.
Cops have been told kettling was ordered for protests as claimed.
“Kettling? That's what we do,” the officer said at the time. “It's not like they do it because these guys are model citizens. They're doing it because they're committing crimes or not following orders.”
NYPD can kettle with individual targets but not large groups, for demonstrations in general.
$13 million was paid over the summer to settle a class-action lawsuit from 1,300 protestors that had claimed to be have been beaten or booked during 18 demonstrations in Brooklyn and Manhattan between May 28 and June 4 of 2020.
Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Hendry said Tuesday that his union — which represents roughly 24,000 officers across the city — refused to sign off on the latest settlement because of concerns that it could put officers' safety at risk.
“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,” Hendry said in a statement.
Nearly 400 NYPD members were injured during the summer 2020 protests, Hendry added.