Guidebook

Five takeaways from NYPD’s ‘Goon Squad’ guide – streetsblog New York City


Notoriously aggressive NYPD agents who used their bikes as weapons to violently arrest peaceful protesters last year were only following their own manual, according to an explosive new report from The Intercept.

In January, Attorney General Letitia James filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD over its use of excessive force during months of summer protests that began after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, accusing the NYPD of having violated the state and the US Constitution by “repeatedly and without justification” using “batons, bicycles, capsicum oleoresin spray (also known as pepper spray), body strikes, too tight fasteners, cars and Tasers ”.

A month earlier, the Department of Investigation released its own report, accusing the NYPD, and in particular its controversial Strategic Response Group – dubbed “the goon squad” for its aggressive conduct, according to The Appeal – of abusing his power and abused force. ; and a coalition of local police demanded that cops stop using their bikes as weapons.

“The militarization of bikes by officers to boil, push and hurt protesters… was appalling. Bikes are made for riding, not for hitting people, ”Brooklyn council member Brad Lander said at the time.

But who is to blame – the individual SRG officers, or the top NYPD officers passing the orders? That answer becomes clearer, thanks to The Intercept, which obtained the Strategic Response Group’s own 173-page guide that reveals that the alleged violation of protesters’ rights was not one-off, but an integral part of officer training.

The SRG team, founded as a tactical anti-terrorism and protest unit by former commissioner Bill Bratton in 2015, is often assigned to events such as the Black Lives Matter protests, the anti-Trump protests of the Women’s March 2017 and bike rides – like the one in April 2019, when dozens of armed cops intimidated young cyclists, confiscated their bikes, and wrote tickets for young people not to have bells on their bikes.

SRG agents often prepare for such events by browsing the social media profiles of well-known attendees and organizers so they know who to target, according to the report and guide (indeed, cops arrested Shardy Nieves for an open container mandate pending at the 2019 release).

Source: NYPD's SRG Bike Squad Modules via The Intercept
Source: NYPD’s SRG Bike Squad Modules via The Intercept

Here are five takeaways from ‘Goon Squad’ own guide:

Strike vs. Thrust

Apparently, there’s a difference between gently pushing your bike against a protester and throwing it hard at them, according to the guide. Cops need to know “the difference between hitting and pushing with a bike or a baton,” the guide explains.

But do they do it? During protests last year, police were filmed using their bikes to brutalize peaceful protesters in Manhattan – one of the first similar cases of police brutality, which James said in his trial had been deployed “unjustifiably”.

“In response to these largely peaceful protests, NYPD agents carried out mass arrests without probable cause, unjustifiably deployed pepper spray, batons and other forces against protesters, and targeted and retaliated against the activities of the First Amendment so frequently and pervasively that they constitute custom or practice of the NYPD, ”wrote James.

And that same practice continued months later when the same team also violently rammed their bikes into public attorney Jumaane Williams during a protest in November for the release of black trans, according to several videos taken by reporters. on site.

“The NYPD was trying to clear the street to make an arrest. Aggressively, ”Williams tweeted at the time. He also denounced the “lack of leadership” inherent when officers act so brutally.

Strength levels

The squad learns five levels of force it can deploy against protesters, which will require review by higher-ranking officers, and the potential discipline that results.

The first is called De Minimis, which simply aims to “separate, guide or control” a crowd. It does not need to be reported unless it causes injury.

Level 1 is the force that causes physical injury, such as from a blow or kick. It must be reported and examined by a senior officer.

Level 2 is when an agent intentionally hits a subject with an object, such as a baton or bicycle. It is “prohibited”, according to the guide, and must be reported and reviewed by a captain, executive or commanding officer

Level 3 is considered deadly physical force. It must be reviewed by the Office of Internal Affairs, or IAB.

And level 4 is when a cop shoots his gun. It must be examined by the Investigation Division.

It is not known what levels of force the NYPD executed last summer, or what actions resulted in investigations (if any); the attorney general’s report does not specify the levels of force deployed by the cops, and the NYPD did not respond to a request for comment, telling Streetsblog to file an access to information request.

Security zone

If members of the SRG team feel threatened, they are trained to spray pepper spray on anyone who approaches them – which they have done on several occasions over the summer, even at pols. locals, including Assembly Member Diana Richardson and State Senator Zellnor Myrie, both of Brooklyn.

The advice is pretty vague on what constitutes a “threat,” pretty much giving cops the freedom to spray indiscriminately.

“Used when danger is perceived or threatened for the cycling team and there is no other alternative but to end the threat or danger, MK9 OC spray will be used to create a safe zone for the cycling team, ”explains the guide.

Trainings and arrests

SRG members learn different formations in which to move through protests and certain events, and which formations are best for stopping a “target”.

The most basic are online training and rolling online training for crowd management; then there’s the flanking, which the cops use to change the direction of a march.

And one of the most common formations during protests last summer was the Mobile Fence Line, where officers do exactly what it sounds like – a fence – with their bikes, facing the crowds. They should shout “back off,” according to the guide. It is used to ‘gain traction and compliance’.

The SRG team used this training during the July 2019 “die-in” in Washington Square Park, when thousands protested over the number of cyclist deaths that summer.

Another formation often used for arrests is the crossbow line, which has five key elements: speed, surprise, force of action, precision and control, according to the guide. Officers should be “VERY LOUD AND CURLING,” he said.

Source: NYPD's SRG Bike Squad Modules via The Intercept
Source: NYPD’s SRG Bike Squad Modules via The Intercept

And then there are two different types of arrests:

The first is the Bicycle Line Arrest Movement or BLAM (there is also an E-BLAM, which stands for Emergency Bicycle Line Arrest Movement).

Officers are taught to “drop subject on bikes,” “subject subjects’ heads to your chest (do not block airways) and back up by dragging subject on bikes and warn subject to. seen “. The probable cause must be determined beforehand, says the guide.

The guide also makes it clear that officers should not put anyone in a strangulation.

“NOT A CHOKE HOLD, DOES NOT BLOCK AIRWAYS,” he says.

Source: NYPD's SRG Bike Squad Modules via The Intercept
Source: NYPD’s SRG Bike Squad Modules via The Intercept

Become one with your bike

And finally, the NYPD tells team members to feel connected to their bikes in order to achieve their best police performance.

“To be a confident cyclist, you have to become one with your bike,” says the guide.

Before each ride, the guide tells the cops to recite their ABCs: A is for the air in the tires; B is for the brakes; and C is Crank and chain. It’s a lesson not only cops, but anyone who rides a bicycle, should follow.

“Before this challenge, the individual should prepare his bike to work for him and not against himself. Having the ability to make adjustments to your bike will change the ergonomics of the rider’s stance and be able to use the geometry of the bike to your advantage, ”says the guide.

The five lessons outlined above, which cops should learn throughout their training, are just further proof that the problem is ingrained in NYPD culture as a whole – it’s not something that none Following training, or reform, could solve it, a lawyer told The Intercept.

“The SRG is a symbol of hyper-aggressive, militarized and irresponsible police violence in New York City, but it’s not exclusive to SRG,” Joo-Hyun Kang, director of Communities United for Police Reform, told the publication. . “We have to understand that this is part of the fabric of how the NYPD has historically dealt with protests and has historically treated Blacks, Latinxes, and other communities of color.”