The report accused the NYPD of deploying unnecessary force and routinely obstructing press freedoms. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters
The first systematic look at the New Yorkpolice department’s response to Occupy Wall Street protests paints a damning picture of an out-of-control and aggressive organization that routinely acted beyond its powers.
In a report that followed an eight-month study (pdf), researchers at the law schools of NYU and Fordham accuse the NYPD of deploying unnecessarily aggressive force, obstructing press freedoms and making arbitrary and baseless arrests.
The study, published on Wednesday, found evidence that police made violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments, obstructed independent legal monitors and was opaque about its policies.
The NYPD report is the first of a series to look at how police authorities in five US cities, including Oakland and Boston, have treated the Occupy movement since it began in September 2011. The research concludes that there now is a systematic effort by authorities to suppress protests, even when these are lawful and pose no threat to the public.
Sarah Knuckey, a professor of law at NYU, said: “All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking”.
To be launched over the coming months, the reports are being done under the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, a national consortium of law school clinics addressing America’s response to Occupy Wall Street.
The NYPD appears to be the worst offender, in large part because it has made little attempt – unlike Oakland, for example – to reassess its practices or open itself up to dialogue or review. The NYPD practices documented in the report include:
• Aggressive, unnecessary and excessive police force against peaceful protesters, bystanders, legal observers, and journalists. This included the use of batons, pepper spray, metal barricades, scooters, and horses.
• Obstruction of press freedoms and independent legal monitoring, including arrests of at least 10 journalists, and multiple cases of preventing journalists from reporting on protests or barring and evicting them from specific sites.
• Pervasive surveillance of peaceful political activity.
• Violent late-night raids on peaceful encampments.
• Unjustified closure of public spaces, dispersal of peaceful assemblies, and trapping of protesters.
• Arbitrary and selective rule enforcement and baseless arrests.
• Failures to ensure transparency about government policies.
• Failures to ensure accountability for those allegedly responsible for abuses.
The report argues that the lack of transparency and accountability is especially troubling because the public does not know whether police actions are guided by specific written policies, or whether they are random or ad hoc.
I believe the NYPD’s lack of participation in these reassessments has something to do with the fact that the largest police union in the world is in the New York.