A settlement between the New York Police Department and multiple parties led to police reforms involving tactics used on demonstrators, The Guardian reports. The agreement was in response to lawsuits about police behavior during the 2020 racial justice protests. The New York state attorney general Letitia James, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society announced the reforms on Tuesday. James said the agreement will “significantly” change how the NYPD responds to mass demonstrations in the future. The NYPD will adopt a four-tiered response system that emphasizes de-escalation versus flooding protests with police officers. The NYPD will hire a senior executive who will oversee the implementation of the new response system in public demonstrations.
City police tactics such as “kettling,” where officers encircle and press upon a group of demonstrators, will be banned. Police will no longer be allowed to use low-flying helicopters to intimidate protesters. Officers will only break up protests as a “last resort” and will only make arrests after giving three warnings for crowds to disperse. “The right to peacefully assemble and protest is sacrosanct and foundational to our democracy. Too often peaceful protesters have been met with force that has harmed innocent New Yorkers simply trying to exercise their rights,” James said. Mayor Eric Adams celebrated the forthcoming changes, calling the reforms balanced. “Our administration is committed to improving our policies to keep New Yorkers safe and protect their civil liberties,” Adams said. He said the reforms would protect public safety while also safeguarding the First Amendment rights of demonstrators to exercise free speech.