LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — The New York City Council’s Committee on Public Safety will meet Wednesday to discuss an NYPD unit whose actions have been criticized as heavy-handed and, on the part of some members, violent.
The department’s Strategic Response Group has been in the spotlight in recent years, particularly with it positioned to respond to protests across the five boroughs. In the wake of the 2020 protests stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, oversight and social justice groups criticized the SRG’s conduct. Ultimately, the NYPD disciplined dozens of cops.
Formed in 2015 to oversee high-priority events including parades and the papal visit, as well as to assist in high-crime areas, SRG responded during the 2020 protests to looting, fires, and property damage, according to the NYPD. Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, voiced support for SRG, saying that he believes it remains a critical tool in the effort to get guns off city streets.
But some city lawmakers want to prohibit SRG from responding to non-violent demonstrations, or disband it altogether. Twenty members of the City Council have signed a letter supporting the effort to disband the unit.
Wednesday’s hearing will get underway around 10 a.m. A rally will also be held outside City Hall in support of the unit’s disbandment.
In response to a request for comment, the NYPD provided the written testimony of Michael Clarke, the department’s director of legislative affairs, as prepared for Wednesday’s hearing.
“SRG is comprised of highly trained, well-vetted and professional police officers,” the two-page testimony reads in part. “These officers are called upon in some of the most stressful, dangerous and chaotic situations, such as the protests and riots that occurred during the summer of 2020.”
The testimony went on to note that the Civilian Complaint Review Board recently reported that it substantiated misconduct allegations against less than 0.62% of officers deployed during that summer. The statement also said that the NYPD would not be answering any questions for the hearing, citing ongoing litigation related to the protests.