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March 5, 2021

PBA Sues to Have Say Rebutting Protest Suits

Union Mistrusts City Officials


Citing a lack of confidence in city officials’ ability to defend its members, the Police Benevolent Association has filed a motion to become a party to several lawsuits tied to the NYPD’s response to the protests last spring and summer.

The union filed a motion to intervene in five consolidated lawsuits concerning the NYPD’s response to the demonstrations, including one filed by State Attorney General Letitia James earlier this year.

‘No Support’

The PBA’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, said the union sought to join the actions because it did not trust that city officials would accurately represent or defend Police Officers.

“They sent police officers out with nothing but mixed messages and no support, then tried to blame us for their failures,” he said in a statement. “We have zero confidence that the city will provide that perspective or adequately represent police officers’ rights. That’s why it’s important for the PBA to join as a party to these suits.”

The action, filed March 4 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, argues that since the various complaints seek changes in how the NYPD oversees future protests, Police Officers could find themselves restricted in how they respond, potentially increasing “the risks to which they are subject.”

The filing asserts that “it can hardly be disputed that the PBA’s members’ protected interests, in their physical safety and collective bargaining rights as well as their reputations, are in jeopardy.”

Judicial findings and subsequent remedial orders could also adversely affect union members during any disciplinary proceedings resulting from officers’ conduct during demonstrations, the union argued.

“The Officers should therefore be allowed, through the PBA, to intervene in order to protect their interests in their personal safety, their collective bargaining and other statutory rights, their reputations and other interests that stand to be affected by any findings, orders, remedies or settlements that may result from these actions,” the Federal filing stated.

‘Other Fish To Fry’

The PBA seeks to intervene in the five cases consolidated by the District Court. They include the lawsuit filed by the Attorney General in January, naming top NYPD officials and Mayor de Blasio, alleging that police used excessive force and made unlawful arrests in “suppressing overwhelmingly peaceful” demonstrations. That action seeks a number of remedies, including what AG James called “systemic reforms.”

Police and their unions have said that more than 400 officers were injured during clashes with the protesters.

“The case involves ‘mostly peaceful protests’ that repeatedly morphed into destructive and violent riots. The NYPD and its Officers became the targets of these protests shortly after they began, and in the course of trying to maintain the peace and protect the rights of all New Yorkers, were subjected to violent assaults,” the union motion stated.

It further argued that no other entity, and certainly not the city, could adequately defend the actions of officers. “While the City should have an interest in protecting its Officers’ safety and reputations, the City’s leaders have many other fish to fry, and they cannot be expected always to give priority to what is most important to Police Officers,” particularly given their often adversarial collective-bargaining relationship, the filing said.

In response to the AG’s suit and to other criticism of officers’ actions during the protests, the PBA president has steadfastly condemned city and police officials for what he has characterized as a failure of leadership, tactically and otherwise.

“No inquiry into last summer’s protests will be complete without looking at the experience of the police officers on the street,” Mr. Lynch said.