The report found several deficiencies in the NYPD, saying department needs major changes in order to bring back the public’s trust.
“I didn’t need an investigation or report to see protestors being kettled, to see elected officials being pepper-sprayed,” Richards said.
In the response to the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, millions took to the streets, where police were filmed slamming women to the ground, running over protesters with their cars, and beating people with batons.
“Anybody who watched those videos or showed up to a protest could tell you that the NYPD acted inappropriately,” Richards said. “They were very aggressive and they tried to stymie First Amendment rights.”
Mayor Bill De Blasio released a video on Friday morning, in which he said “we have to do better” in regards to policing and the investigation’s findings.
Richards said that he was glad “the mayor has now seen the light, but this was something he should have seen a long time ago.”
When asked in May about footage of police officer running over people with a car, de Blasio flipped the blame to the protesters.
“I’ve seen that video,” he said back then. “It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers.”
The mayor sang a different tune in his new video, stating that many of the police actions during the protests were not “good choices.”
“We have to come to grips to that,” he said. “I have to do better, our police department has to do better. We have to train our police force differently.”
Richards also brought up the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, which was implemented during the protests over the summer.
“It’s been the wild, wild west with that particular agency,” said Richards, who held hearings when he was a City Council member on the NYPD’s actions during the summer protests. “My first hearing was on the Strategic Response Group because they were slamming activists and others who were fighting a deportation matter. There always needed to be a check on that group.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea released a statement about the report.
"In general terms, the report captured the difficult period that took place in May and June of 2020 and presents 20 logical and thoughtful recommendations that I intend to incorporate into our future policy and training,” he said.
The report urged the NYPD to reevaluate its methods in handling protests, saying that the force is not able to “effectively monitor themselves.”
“We urge them to accept that in this moment their own efforts are not enough to restore and preserve trust with the public, and to seek a true partnership with robust civilian oversight," the report concluded.
Richards added that the report was just another indication that the NYPD interfered with people’s First Amendment rights.
“We have the right to protest fairly and in a safe manner,” he said. “No one should stymie the public’s right to protest, and that’s what the NYPD did.”