Police Mishandled Protests in City After City: Reports

Departments were unprepared for such large demonstrations, review finds
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2021 12:30 PM CDT
Police were Unprepared for Such Large Protests: Reports
Police pepper spray protesters in Seattle during a march and demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter last July.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Reviews of the police response to the protests that erupted in US cities last summer after the death of George Floyd are in, and they're scathing. In large and small cities, police were unprepared for the scope of the protests and consistently mishandled the challenge, the New York Times reports. The Times examined reports by watchdogs, outside investigators, and consultants on confrontations in nine major cities, in addition to reports by the police themselves in another five major cities. They consistently found mistake-riddled responses that at times made the situation worse. "American police simply were not prepared for the challenge that they faced in terms of planning, logistics, training and police command-and-control supervision," said the head of a nonprofit that advises police departments. Some police have argued the findings. "Heaping blame on police departments while ignoring the criminals who used protests as cover for planned and coordinated violence almost guarantees a repeat of the chaos we saw last summer," said the head of New York City's Police Benevolent Association.

A crowd of mainly peaceful protesters that was cornered on an interstate, left with nowhere to go, was sprayed with tear gas in Philadelphia. Chicago gave its officers old arrest kits with broken handcuffs. Los Angeles officers with inadequate training on them were given foam-projectile launchers and hit a homeless man in the eye. Police projectiles nationally blinded eight people. The reports cite similar shortcomings across cities. A report praised only Baltimore for sending out officers in regular uniforms and asking them to "calmly engage in discussion" with demonstrators. A study has found the protests are effective, per Scientific American. Killings at the hands of police fell as much as 20% in cities that had demonstrations, a drop of about 300 deaths nationally from 2014 to 2019. "The data show very clearly that where you had Black Lives Matter protests, killing of people by the police decreased," said a Northwestern Univeristy sociologist who wasn't involved in the study. "It's inescapable from this study that protest matters—that it can generate change." (More Black Lives Matter stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.