In five internal reports made public Thursday as part of a lawsuit, New York City police commanders candidly discuss how they had successfully used "proactive arrests," covert surveillance and psychological tactics at political demonstrations in 2002, and recommend those approaches be employed at future gatherings.
NYC cops used covert tactics, `proactive arrests' at protests
The reports provide a glimpse of internal police evaluations and strategies on security and free speech issues that have provoked sharp debate between city officials and political demonstrators since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The reports also made clear what the police have yet to discuss publicly: The department uses undercover officers to infiltrate political gatherings and monitor behavior.
Indeed, one of the documents--a draft report from the department's Disorder Control Unit--proposed in blunt terms the resumption of a covert tactic that had been disavowed by the city and the federal government 30 years earlier. Under the heading of recommendations, the draft suggested, "Utilize undercover officers to distribute misinformation within the crowds."
Browne also said the "proactive" arrests referred to in the report--numbering about 30--involved protesters with pipes and masks who he said presented an obvious threat.
In another report, a police inspector praised the "staging of massive amounts" of armored vehicles, prisoner wagons and jail buses in the view of the demonstrators, writing that the sight "would cause them to be alarmed."
Jim Dwyer, New York Times News Service
, March 17, 2006
While arresting demonstrators who had put on masks and seemed to be ready to engage in violence was likely justified this clearly appears to be a waystation on the road to preemtive arrests of completely non-violent demonstrators. Nor, it would seem, is this sort of aggressive appoach confined to New York City as some law enforcement officers throughout the country seem to act quite in line with the attitude reflected in those memos.