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Brooklyn Protest Raises Doubts About N.Y.P.D. Commitment to New Tactics

Last September, the New York Police Department signed a sweeping agreement in federal court that was meant to end overwhelming responses to protests that often led to violent clashes, large-scale arrests and expensive civil rights lawsuits.

The sight of hundreds of officers in tactical gear moving in on pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, on Saturday suggested to civil libertarians that the department might not abide by the agreement when it is fully implemented. At least two officers wearing the white shirts of commanders were filmed punching three protesters who were prone in the middle of a crosswalk.

And film clips of recent campus protests showed some officers pushing and dragging students, a handful of whom later said they had been injured by the police, though many officers appeared to show restraint during the arrests.

“I think members of the public are very concerned that the police will be unwilling or unable to meet their end of the bargain,” said Jennvine Wong, a staff attorney with Legal Aid, which, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit against the city over the department’s response to protests in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.

That lawsuit was later combined with a complaint filed by Letitia James, the state attorney general, over what she called widespread abuses during the Black Lives Matter protests. Last fall, police officials and Ms. James reached the agreement in federal court, intended to strike a new equilibrium between the department’s need to preserve public safety and the rights of protesters.

The city, along with two major police unions, agreed to develop policies and training that would teach the department to respond gradually to demonstrations, rather than sending in large numbers of officers immediately, and to emphasize de-escalation over an immediate show of force. The implementation was expected to take three years.

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