NEW YORK (PIX11) — Demonstrators on the steps of City Hall on Wednesday called to dismantle the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group (SRG) over allegations of violent misconduct.
The New York City Council heard public testimony for the first time on the SRG’s flaws. NYPD representatives did not attend the hearing, skipping questions from city lawmakers, citing legal reasons.
New York City has agreed to pay up to $6 million to settle a lawsuit brought by protesters who say they were assaulted, abused and trapped by police using a technique known as “kettling” at a demonstration in June 2020 in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
The NYPD disciplined 40 officers stemming from protests in 2020, but also pointed out that more than 400 officers came under physical attack during that time.
“The crux of it is we have a group of people who were organized and trained around terrorism. They were trained to respond to threats of terroristic attacks. So it shouldn’t surprise people that the result of deploying those folks would heighten it,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said.
The first oversight hearing regarding the SRG discussed the scope of their training, tactics, size and operations budget.
The New York Civil Liberties Union found SRG officers have a much higher number of misconduct complaints compared to other officers.
Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams said the SRG is a critical tool in keeping this city safe.
“I think SRG is doing a great job. And during the time when we are dealing with removing guns off our streets and dangerous people off our streets, we need units like SRG and others to do so,” said Adams.
The NYPD said it has changed the way it polices large-scale events and is committed to continually improving its practices.
An NYPD spokesperson provided the following statement about Wednesday’s public hearing.
“While the 2020 protests in New York City occurred nearly three years ago under a different administration, the NYPD remains committed to publicly discussing the events of that challenging period, including the practices of the department’s Strategic Response Group. Unfortunately, doing so at today’s City Council hearing was not possible, as was made clear to the council over the last two months. The NYPD is actively engaged in litigation and negotiations that touch directly on the SRG and the court has issued a gag order directing confidentiality in the matter. That means the NYPD’s expert witnesses – those whose voices would be most valuable in the ongoing public dialogue – remain barred from speaking. While the NYPD submitted written testimony, we look forward to the opportunity to discuss this matter further at the conclusion of litigation.”