Law School Study Alleges NYPD Overstepped its Power During Occupy Protests

A study by law professors alleges that the NYPD used excessive force in policing the Occupy Wall Street protests

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Lucas Jackson / Reuters

New York Police Department officers arrest a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement during a "national day of action" demonstration in New York on February 29, 2012.

A report by New York University and Fordham Law Schools studying the actions that police took in response to Occupy protests has found that the New York Police Department consistently overstepped its powers while policing protesters. The study’s authors allege that the officers frequently used excessive force in policing non-violent protestors, making unjustified arrests and conducting violent raids on peaceful encampments.

“All the case studies we collected show the police are violating basic rights consistently, and the level of impunity is shocking,” NYU law professor Sarah Knuckey told The Guardian. The report, for which Knuckey was a lead author, lists 130 specific incidents of alleged police force.

Researchers collected data on the arrests by watching hundreds of hours of footage, reviewing press on the protests, interviewing witnesses and obtaining documents through freedom of information requests filed with the NYPD.

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Notably, though, the investigation lacks the NYPD’s perspective. Researchers told The Guardian they requested interviews with the NYPD, as well as with Mayor Bloomberg’s office and other city departments. The NYPD refused their requests in writing, while the other city officials ignored their messages.

The study’s authors call on Mayor Bloomberg to begin a major review of the police response to the Occupy movement and on state legislators to appoint an inspector-general to supervise policing practices.

The eight-month-long study, a project of the Protest and Assembly Rights Project, is the first in a series investigating the police response to the Occupy movement in five U.S. cities. The Project’s researchers have also examined police responses in Oakland, San Francisco, Boston and Charlotte. Police departments from all four other cities sent representatives to meet with the researchers.

In addition to complaints made to city officials calling for review, the study’s authors have made complaints to the United Nations and the state Department of Justice.

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Matthew Johnson
Matthew Johnson

Yes, the NYPD violated the law in the way this article describes. The police trampled on rights in Oakland, too. Yes, they did it with total impunity. THAT is what is the most disturbing. At a time when the 1% have freely robbed the whole country, the police, who themselves are threatened with layoffs thanks to said robbery, are violently defending the 1% and attacking the rest of us. And they get away with it.

We have got to stop letting them get away with it. They must pay steep penalties for this.