A major shortcoming in the department’s strategy, the report said, was an acknowledgment that policing was the subject of protests. “The fact that the target of the protests was policing itself does not appear to have factored into the Department’s response strategy in any meaningful way,” it said.
Many patrol officers, who had not been adequately trained for large protests, were deployed to the streets and forced to work long shifts in unfamiliar neighborhoods with unfamiliar colleagues and supervisors, the investigators wrote. That left many rank-and-file patrol officers “overwhelmed and exhausted,” and created “conditions that increased the likelihood of poor judgment, unprofessional behavior, and unjustified use of force.”
Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, said the report confirmed his contention that the department had dispatched officers to protests with no plan, strategy or support and asked them to handle “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,” Mr. Lynch said. “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.”
The report recommended, among other steps, that the Police Department create a separate unit to oversee demonstrations that would work closely with community affairs officers who are specially trained to facilitate interaction between the public and the police.
The report also said the department should re-evaluate the use of specialized units that played a central role in the protests — the Strategic Response Group and the Disorder Control Unit — which are trained to handle terrorist attacks, riots and other serious threats.
It also recommended that the department give all patrol officers more training in how to best interact with protesters and put rules in its patrol guide for policing protests that would give greater emphasis to protecting freedom of speech.