Though it may not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, the New York Police Department is being accused of violating human and civil rights in its handling of Occupy protests, says The Guardian. After conducting an eight-month study, researchers from New York University and Fordham’s law schools recently released a report that outlined NYPD’s illegal tactics for suppressing First Amendment rights.
Although police officers take an oath to uphold the Constitution, New York scholars found them engaging in activities that did quite the opposite. The report details a laundry list of wrongdoings by the officers including excessive use of bodily force, unlawful arrests, unnecessary employment of weapons, refusing or delaying medical care to protesters, obstructing freedom of the press, arresting journalists, utilizing unnecessary police surveillance, using unwarranted interrogation and intimidation tactics, and enforcing rules arbitrarily.
“All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking,” said Sarah Knuckey, a professor of Clinical Law at NYU and one of the lead authors of the report. “The point needs to be made that NYPD does not exemplify international human rights law, it violates it.”
Despite being asked to meet with researchers so that the police’s perspective could be better included in the study, NYPD refused to speak on the matter. Instead, researchers used freedom of information queries to obtain necessary documents, although even some of those requests went unanswered.
NYPD is the only local police force that did not agree to weigh in with researchers. The New York study is just the first in a series of reports to be released through the Protest and Assembly Rights Project. Subsequent studies specific to Oakland, Boston, and a couple of other cities will be released in the upcoming months.
One of the biggest problems seems to be that the police are not being held accountable for their actions. With no one actively policing the police, NYPD has been able to get away with violating human rights. After nearly a year of questionable police responses to the Occupy movement, just one officer, Anthony Bologna, was handed a disciplinary proceeding for any wrongdoing.
This lack of accountability is addressed in the study’s concluding recommendations:
- The Mayor of New York City should establish an independent review of the response to the Occupy protests in New York.
- New York City and State authorities must ensure full accountability for violations of the rights of protesters.
- An independent Inspector-General for the police should be created through law, with sufficient independence, capacity, resources and power to provide effective oversight of policing practices.
- The NYPD must create, publicize and implement a new protest policing policy for protests that prioritizes respect for civil liberties and human rights.
- New York City authorities should ensure transparency in their protest policing and accountability efforts and release all relevant documents related to its protest policing policies and practices.
- If New York officials fail to announce a good-faith intention to undertake the above necessary steps to restore accountability and rights-respecting protest policing, the U.S. Department of Justice must exercise its authority to investigate allegations of official misconduct.
- The UN Special Rapporteurs on assembly, expression and human rights defenders should seek U.S. government compliance with international human rights law by requesting the United States to respond to the allegations in this report. Where appropriate, the Special Rapporteurs should request a country fact-finding mission to the United States.
Photo Credit: Joe Lustri