NYC Impeding Probe of Police Conduct in Protests, AG Says
(Bloomberg) -- New York City officials have been slow to cooperate with requests for evidence in a lawsuit accusing police of using excessive force and making false arrests during Black Lives Matter protests last year, state Attorney General Letitia James said.
The city’s “recalcitrance” has made it difficult to schedule crucial witness depositions, while the New York Police Department hasn’t yet provided the names of some officers whose helmet numbers were captured in video footage, James said in a Tuesday letter to U.S. District Judge Gabriel Gorenstein in Manhattan.
“Plaintiffs continue to have to follow up endlessly to get the kind of basic information that is always necessary for parties to try to work issues like these out without seeking intervention from the Court,” according to the letter, which James signed with a group of lawyers for plaintiffs in several related suits.
The situation has been made worse because the city understaffed its defense team “despite the Court’s strong suggestions that they should staff up instead,” the letter said. The group asked the court to order the city to identify the officers in the video so they can be deposed.
James sued the city and Mayor Bill de Blasio in January over the alleged conduct, claiming state investigators had established “an egregious abuse of police power” overseen by leadership that was “unable or unwilling to stop it.”
Patricia Miller, chief of the special federal litigation division of the NYC Law Department, said there is “no truth” to the allegations made in the letter to the judge.
“We have produced thousands of documents, including over 24,000 pages in four days, thousands of hours of video footage, and we still managed to conduct more than two dozen depositions,” Miller said in an emailed statement. “The gamesmanship plaintiff’s counsel continues to resort to is not an appropriate way to litigate.”
At a June 24 hearing in Manhattan federal court, city attorney Dara Weiss said the the city had been hampered by “mixed messages” about the plaintiffs’ priorities in seeking evidence.
“There’s very little that they’re asking for that we’re not planning on producing,” Weiss told the judge, according to a transcript.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that handles complaints against NYPD officers, this month published an update to its own investigations of conduct during the protests. That investigation has resulted in 26 substantiated complaints, involving 48 allegations against 39 officers.
The agency said it received more than 300 complaints tied to the protests, with over 2,000 allegations against officers. The board also raised the issue of identification, citing incidents of officers covering their name and badges, wearing equipment that doesn’t belong to them and failing to use body cameras.
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