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Department of Investigation

DOI REPORT: NYPD Inappropriately Used Bikes As Weapons 

Police using their bicycles as weapons against protesters in Union Square last year. File photo

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Cops inappropriately used their bicycles as weapons against protesters throughout the summer — a crucial, but less-heralded aspect of a bombshell report issued Friday by the Department of Investigation that called out the NYPD for its misuse of force after protests erupted after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

On Friday, DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said what Mayor de Blasio has so far refused to — the police in general and the controversial Strategic Response Group specifically, abused their power, and misappropriated their bicycles as weapons against peaceful protesters.

“In the report, we do talk about the policy of training the SRG in particular using barricades, using bicycles. It’s a complex issue, those tactics and techniques are appropriate in some circumstances, but it’s a different question, ‘Were they used appropriately in these circumstances?’" said Garnett during a virtual press conference about the report. “Our general finding is those tactics were overused in a disproportionate way.”

Garnett's general criticism of the police misconduct was part of a larger report that excoriated police brass for defaulting to behaving as if protesters were an enemy rather than seeing them as people needing to express themselves.

"The NYPD lacked a clearly defined strategy tailored to respond to the large-scale protests of police and policing," Garnett said in her overview comments. "The NYPD largely defaulted to application of 'disorder control' tactics and methods, without adjustment to reflect their responsibility to facilitate lawful First Amendment expression."

The report and admission comes about a month after a coalition of local pols, including the city’s own Public Advocate — who was the victim of such an assault during an early November protest in Manhattan — said the NYPD must stop using their bikes as weapons to violently prevent protestors from peacefully marching in the streets.

And even one went so far as to demand Hizzoner take cops' bikes away if they are only going to use them to hurt people.

“Bikes aren’t supposed to be weapons. They failed to cut the NYPD budget, so maybe try starting with something smaller: take their bikes away,” State Sen. Julia Salazar, who represents swaths of Brooklyn, said at the time.

That was the latest instance of police violently shoving protestors, striking them with batons, plowing into them with squad cars, and using their bike frames to push back protesters, just as they did for months throughout the summer protests.

But de Blasio had thus far refused to admit that his own NYPD did anything wrong, saying just last month that cops perpetrating violence is not “acceptable,” but that the multiple videos depicting such violence — including the one of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams being attacked — may not be the reality of what happened.

“The question is when we are debating over videos or quote unquote evidence of what happened, I really don’t think we’re getting a clear enough picture from anywhere, honestly, of the situations in which someone, in fact, their only intention was peaceful, versus in fact their intention was not so peaceful,” de Blasio said last month.

The mayor altered his rhetoric after DOI’s bombshell report was issued, saying that he agrees with the findings in their entirety and that the NYPD must change.

“I read this report and I agree with it. I agree with its analysis. It makes very clear we got to do something different and better,” de Blasio said during a six-minute video he posted to Twitter.

The report also highlights the May 30 incident of cops using their squad cars as deadly weapons to plow into a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn, but Garnett declined to comment on it, saying it is still under investigation by Attorney General Letitia James and the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

"In order to avoid interfering with those investigations, or undermining their effectiveness, this Report does not consider allegations of individual misconduct by officers, except to the extent that such events had direct bearing on the systemic areas of inquiry noted above," the 100-page report says. 

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