Legal Aid Society


LAS Secures Major Reforms to NYPD Policing of Protests

The Legal Aid Society (LAS), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced a landmark agreement with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) that significantly reforms NYPD’s policing of protests to reduce unnecessary police presence and end violent practices, including kettling protesters.

Today’s agreement resolves lawsuits filed by Attorney General James, LAS, NYCLU, and other private lawsuits over NYPD’s wrongful arrests and excessive use of force against protesters during the summer of 2020. As a result of today’s agreement, NYPD will be required to change how it deploys officers to public demonstrations to allow New Yorkers to exercise their First Amendment rights free from intimidation or violence.

The centerpiece of the reforms is a new, tiered response system that creates a presumption against deploying police officers to protests, unless certain thresholds are met, and limits the discretion of officers to enforce low-level offenses used as pretexts to shut down protests. The tiered system will minimize police presence at protests and require NYPD to use de-escalation methods before increasing its response.

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 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.

“Today’s settlement represents a novel approach to policing protests that, if implemented faithfully by the NYPD, will ensure that protesters are never again met with the sort of indiscriminate violence and retaliatory over-policing New York saw in the summer of 2020,” said Corey Stoughton, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice’s Special Litigation Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “We look forward to seeing these reforms unfold and will hold both the City and the NYPD accountable should the Department and individual officers fail to adhere to these new and needed practices.”

Update: 2/7/204
District Judge Hon. Colleen McMahon ruled that the New York City Police Benevolent Association’s (PBA) motion to reject the Payne v. de Blasio settlement is meritless. The Payne settlement has now been entered by the court, and will go into effect.