Attorney General James Announces Court Decision Authorizing Reforms to NYPD’s Policing of Protests

NYPD to Begin Implementing Policing Protest Reforms as Required by Agreement

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York authorized the agreement between her office, The Legal Aid Society, NYCLU, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to reform NYPD’s policing of protests to move forward immediately. The agreement requires the implementation of reforms, including the use of a four-tiered response system when responding to protests. The agreement also requires the NYPD to create a senior role within the department to oversee response to all public demonstrations, amend its internal discipline matrix, and improve its treatment of members of the press. 

“Peaceful protests are a bedrock of our democracy and for generations have been a catalyst for change and progress,” said Attorney General James. “These policing reforms will better protect New Yorkers’ public safety and their constitutional right to peacefully protest. I am pleased with today’s decision to allow the terms of our agreement to move forward in full. With these policing reforms, New Yorkers can exercise their first amendment right to peacefully protest without fear, intimidation, or harm.”

In September 2023, Attorney General James, The Legal Aid Society, and NYCLU announced the historic agreement with NYPD to significantly change how the department polices protests. The centerpiece of the reforms is a four-tiered response system that will dictate how NYPD responds to protests, with the primary goal of protecting the rights of protesters. The tiered system will require NYPD to use de-escalation methods before increasing its response. The system allows for increased NYPD presence and response if protests block major traffic arteries, if protesters engage in unlawful conduct, or in other instances that could compromise public safety.

Additionally, the agreement requires NYPD to create a new, senior role within the department to oversee response to all public demonstrations. The agreement will also require NYPD to stop its use of the crowd-control tactic known as “kettling,” amend its internal discipline matrix, and improve its treatment of members of the press. 

To ensure accountability, a new collaborative oversight committee will review NYPD’s response to public demonstrations over a multi-year period. The agreement requires New York City to provide $1.625 million in funding to the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) and $1.45 million to support plaintiffs’ work during the oversight committee process.

In 2020, Attorney General James held a three-day public hearing on NYPD’s response to public protests and later released a preliminary report on the findings from the hearing. In 2021, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against NYPD for its pattern of using excessive force and making false arrests against New Yorkers during peaceful protests. In October 2020, LAS and NYCLU also sued New York City and NYPD for its excessive use of force during protests in 2020 over the unjust killing of George Floyd. Two private lawsuits, Rolon v. City of New York and Gray v. City of New York, were also filed against NYPD for its excessive use of force against private citizens and members of the press respectively. The agreement resolves those lawsuits and requires NYPD to make a series of reforms to how it responds to and interacts with public demonstrations.