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NYPD Excessive Force Heightened Tensions During Protests Over George Floyd's Death, DOI Report Finds

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - There's demand for wholesale change at the NYPD after a damming report by the Department of Investigation finds the NYPD was unprepared to deal with protests over the murder of George Floyd, and that excessive force exacerbated tensions.

As CBS2's political reporter Marcia Kramer reports, New Yorkers were appalled by the video of the police response to the George Floyd protests: Bystanders sprayed with pepper spray, a squad car driving into a crowd of protesters, a woman pushed to the ground by police.

A new report by the Department of Investigation tears the Band-Aid off that wound.

LINK: Read the complete report (.pdf)

"Our investigation found that the NYPD, as an institution, made a number of key errors or ommissions that likely escalated tensions and a potential for violence," said DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett.

Among the findings:

  • The NYPD lacks a clearly defined strategy to respond to large scale protests
  • Police used excessive force that heighted tensions
  • Cops lacked sufficient training

"The NYPD's tactics often failed to discriminate between lawful, peaceful protesters and unlawful actors," Garnett said.

DOI made numerous recommendations for change – including consolidating police oversight in a single entity with an independent board.

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"The response really was a failure on many levels," Garnett said.

She called it a "fraught moment" for policing where public trust in the NYPD is at a low ebb.

"These tactics, which included encirclement, also known as kettling, mass arrests, baton and pepper spray use, and other tactics, reflect a failure to calibrate an appropriate balance between valid public safety, or officer safety, interest and the rights of protesters to assemble and express their views,' Garnett said.


Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea vowed to make changes.

"I am saying to everyone in the NYPD - everyone needs to accept the results of this report. Everyone needs to implement them," de Blasio said. "If there's anyone in leadership in the NYPD who reads that report and disagrees... they should leave now."

WATCH: Mayor Bill de Blasio Discusses DOI Report Findings

But CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters, a former DOI commissioner, questioned the mayor's sincerity. He says de Blasio ignored previous DOI reports calling for changes in the police department.

"The question now is, this time, will the NYPD make changes and will the mayor insist that the NYPD make changes? In the past, the mayor's never insisted the NYPD reckoned with any of the damning DOI reports," Peters said.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain who is running for mayor, says the NYPD needs to establish a specialized unit trained to deal with protests.

"If you don't know there are people who peacefully voice their concerns, and all you know is going after bad guys all the time, you tend to think that everyone is a bad guy. If all you do is use a hammer, everything looks like a nail to you," Adams said.

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said this:

The DOI report confirms what police officers knew on the first night of riots: our city leaders sent us out with no plan, no strategy and no support to deal with unrest that was fundamentally different from any of the thousands of demonstrations that police officers successfully protect every single year. Nearly 400 police officers were injured – struck with bricks, bottles, fire extinguishers and folding chairs – because of the mixed messages emanating from City Hall and Albany. No amount of new training or strategizing will help while politicians continue to undermine police officers and embolden those who create chaos on our streets.

Lynch pointed out that over 400 officers were injured during the protest.

Mayor de Blasio releases video supporting DOI investigation of NYPD protest response by NYC Mayor's Office on YouTube

In an unusual move, de Blasio put out a video message to New Yorkers.

"I read this report, and I agree with it. I agree with its analysis and I agree with its recommendations. Because it makes very clear we got to do something different, and we got to do something better," he said.

PHOTO GALLERY: George Floyd's Death Prompts Days Of Protests In NYC

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the report presented "logical and thoughtful recommendations" that he intends to incorporate into future policy and  training.

"I have reviewed the Department of Investigation report. In general terms the report captured the difficult period that took place in May/June of 2020 and presents 20 logical and thoughtful recommendations that I intend to incorporate into our future policy and training. I'd like to thank DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett and her entire staff for their professionalism during this process," Shea said.

The Legal Aid Society and New York Civil Liberties Union released this statement about the report:

This report confirms that the shocking violence the NYPD employed during the George Floyd protests was directly traceable to the leadership failures of Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner Shea and other police leaders who created a de facto policy permitting and encouraging individual officers to target protesters for brutal treatment and unlawful arrests. Removing a terrorism-focused unit like the Strategic Response Group from the equation is a positive step, but simply instituting more training and shifting responsibilities around is not a solution. The fundamental problem is a Department whose leadership and culture allowed the events of this summer to unfold, refuses to confront its own conduct, and does nothing to address the root causes of these long-standing problems.

Lastly, Mayor de Blasio's mea culpa comes a day late and a dollar short. It should not have required a City investigation for him to reach the same conclusion as millions with eyes to see bore witness to this past summer.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating. James also recommended an oversight panel, which the mayor previously said "just won't work."

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