Former U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch to help investigate NYPD actions during protests

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Thousands of protestors massed at the Barclays Center where they threw bottles and debris, and cops fought back with night sticks, pepper spray and arrests on May 29, 2020. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

State Attorney General Letitia James tapped former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as a special advisor to help investigate the NYPD’s interactions with demonstrators during the George Floyd protests.

Lynch and Barry Friedman, the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law at New York University (NYU) School of Law and the Founder and Faculty Director of the Policing Project at NYU Law, have been assigned as special advisors for the investigation launched on May 30. 

“The right to peacefully protest is one of our most basic civil rights, and we are working without rest to ensure that right is protected and guarded,” James said in announcing the appointments Wednesday. “As we continue our investigation, I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to seek answers and accountability, and that includes calling on the sharpest minds to lend their expertise.”

Lynch previously lead an investigation into the actions of the Chicago Police Department following the shooting death of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. The probe found that the department regularly used “unjustified, disproportionate and otherwise excessive force,” and led to a reform plan.

“There is no greater responsibility of government than the protection of its citizens,” Lynch said. “It is time to examine recent events to ensure that all New Yorkers receive truly equal protection under the law. I look forward to working with Attorney General James and her outstanding team on these important issues.”

United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks during an interview in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. June 28, 2016. (REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec/File Photo)

Friedman is regarded as a leading expert on constitutional law, criminal procedure and policing. He also helped create “The Policing Project,” which works to promote a “democratic voice on the front end of policing, including around policing surveillance technology” and in general interaction with the public.

“My work is dedicated to promoting public safety through transparency, equity, and democratic engagement,” Friedman said. “We know that our communities are best served and protected when all stakeholders have a seat at the table, not just those in power. It’s clear New York is ready for an in-depth look at our policing polices and I appreciate the opportunity to work with Attorney General James on this investigation.”

The George Floyd protests in New York city included numerous reports of violent incidents involving police, including officers violently shoving protesters to the ground or pepper-spraying peaceful protesters. 

On May 30, after a night of violent clashes in Brooklyn, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed James to conduct an investigation into police actions during the protests. The attorney general was asked to complete the inquiry and issue a report within 30 days.