On Wednesday, City Councilmembers on the Committee on Public Safety held a hearing to discuss the scope of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, or SRG, and address allegations of abuse of power.
The unit’s officers are accused of using overly aggressive tactics against protestors and other New Yorkers.
NYPD brass, scheduled to attend the already thrice-rescheduled hearing, did not show up Wednesday.
What You Need To Know
- City Councilmembers on the Committee on Public Safety held a hearing to discuss the scope of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, or SRG, and address allegations of abuse of power, but NYPD brass did not show up
- The unit’s officers are accused of using overly aggressive tactics against protestors and other New Yorkers
- The lack of police presence Wednesday stung for members of the committee and members of the public who showed up to address the SRG amid allegations of abuse of power, particularly during protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020 by Minneapolis police officers
- The NYPD said in a statement ongoing litigation prevented key officials from testifying
“We are commanding and demanding that you disband the SRG. We will no longer fund our own oppression,” said Kimberly Bernard.
Bernard, who is an activist, directed her ire toward NYPD brass during the hearing.
“And those very same police, with the opportunity this morning to take some responsibility for their actions, are nowhere to be seen,” said Queens Councilmember Tiffany Caban.
The hearing had previously been postponed three times, allegedly because the NYPD refused to attend.
The lack of police presence Wednesday stung for members of the committee and members of the public who showed up to address the SRG amid allegations of abuse of power, particularly during protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020 by Minneapolis police officers.
“New Yorkers have been calling to disband the SRG for many, many years. So from the NYPD, this is absolutely unacceptable. This council is watching,” said Councilmember Shahana Hanif, who represents parts of central Brooklyn.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD’s oversight body, was present at the hearing. Members of the board laid out the results of hundreds of investigations into complaints against the NYPD officers during the protests. The board recommended more than 140 officers be disciplined and called for the unit to be disbanded.
“Of those complaints, we fully investigated 226 of them. Eighty eight of those complaints had at least one substantiated allegation,” said CCRB Executive Director Jonathan Darche.
The hearing comes amid news that the City is set to pay millions of dollars to demonstrators who were reportedly hit by batons, pepper sprayed and suffered other alleged abuses during the 2020 protests. Reportedly, 300 protesters will receive more than $21,000 each.
Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, some City Councilmembers joined the New York Civil Liberties Union at a rally to echo calls to disband the SRG.
“People who are trained in terrorism and terrorists attacks to police largely non-violent protests,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Though, not all councilmembers want to see the SRG disbanded.
“These SRG offiers are there to help precincts that are in need, they are there to remove illegal firearms and weapons off our streets,” said Queens Councilmember Joann Ariola, a Republican.
Ariola was joined by her fellow Queens Councilmember Robert Holden, a Democrat, in voicing support for the NYPD’s SRG.
“Were the police under attack, were cars being burned, was property being damaged,” Holden asked.
The director of legislative affairs for the NYPD said NYPD brass were absent from the hearing after being advised by counsel that it should not answer any questions regarding the 2020 protests due to ongoing litigation involving dozens of related cases, the police department said in a statement.
“The NYPD is actively engaged in litigation and negotiations that touch directly on the SRG and the court has issued a gag order directing confidentiality in the matter. That means the NYPD’s expert witnesses - those whose voices would be most valuable in the ongoing public dialogue - remain barred from speaking,” an NYPD spokesperson wrote. “While the NYPD submitted written testimony, we look forward to the opportunity to discuss this matter further at the conclusion of litigation.”
The City Council released a statement of their own calling the NYPD’s decision a “disservice to the people of our city,” and said the SRG unit “has raised serious concerns from New Yorkers for its policing of Constitutionally-protected activities.”
“Agencies are expected to be transparent with the City’s residents through public hearings, and the message sent by NYPD leadership today is that the department does not need to be accountable to the everyday New Yorkers they swore to protect and serve,” said Council Spokesperson Rendy Desamours. “This lack of commitment to public transparency and accountability cannot continue, and it’s a shame that the department’s leadership not only undermined its relationship with the Council but all New Yorkers by choosing to not show up,”