NYPD Manual Advises Militarized Unit How to Circumvent Civilian Rights

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A series of internal NYPD documents shed new light on the department’s Strategic Response Group (SRG), the police unit behind some of the most brutal repression of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, offering page after page of instructions on how to circumvent protestors constitutional rights, reports The Intercept. The SRG materials reflect a heavy-handed approach to the policing of protest and echo the war-on-terror mentality on which the unit was premised, The Intercept says, noting that it refers to protesters as potential “hostile targets.” Before such an order, according to the documents, SRG officers are instructed to follow directions and not to exercise discretion. The decision to engage in mass arrests of protesters for nonviolent behavior like unlawful assembly or “obstructing governmental administration,” the most frequent protest-related charges, rests squarely with department leadership.

In their joint lawsuit, NYCLU and Legal Aid are seeking damages for a dozen people who were beaten, pepper-sprayed, shoved to the ground, and arrested during several incidents last summer. The lawyers also want the police to declare that police violated the First and Fourth Amendments. In another class-action lawsuit, attorneys are seeking damages on behalf of a potentially enormous group of plaintiffs, including “all people arrested between May 28 and June 6, as well as all people who have been or will be subjected to the NYPD’s practices of violently disrupting protests.” And in its own lawsuit, the New York State Office of the Attorney General has called on the courts to install an independent federal monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing tactics at future protests as well as a declaration that the tactics deployed last summer were unlawful.

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