The NYPD's Strategic Response Group, by most reasonable accounts, is extremely bad news: Perhaps you'll recall the name from the time officers body-slammed protestors on their bikes, or when an officer choked two activists during an immigration action in 2018, or when violent mass arrests of questionable legality were practically an everyday occurrence in 2020's summer of unrest.
The 700-person unit, sometimes referred to as the "goon squad," was formed by former police commissioner Bill Bratton in 2015 as an elite unit armed with special equipment, including long guns, and tasked specifically with responding to terrorist threats. After initially suggesting the unit might also be turned against protesters, the NYPD explicitly walked that threat back: "They will not be involved in handling protests and demonstrations," then-NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill told the Daily News in 2015. "They'll have no role in protests. Their response is single-fold. They'll be doing counterterror work."
LOL, as they say. Activists have accused the group of specifically targeting movement leaders as it has presided over crackdowns of most every major moment of New York protest from its inception in 2015 to the present. SRG cops have prolific civilian complaint rates. The New York Civil Liberty Union is calling for the Strategic Response Group to be disbanded, and this fall, some elected officials introduced a bill that would prevent the goon squad from being deployed during nonviolent actions, given how wildly inappropriate their behavior during the summer of 2020 was.
In Eric Adams's New York, the SRG's role expanded to include facilitating the rousting of homeless encampments. Now, the mission creep cycle is complete, with the elite and highly specialized unit being turned loose in the streets for general policing purposes. According to a memo obtained by the New York Post, the SRG is being deployed to "commands with a high volume of [serious] crime." Most of these precincts, according to the tabloid, are in the Bronx and Manhattan. It remains unclear how, exactly, the NYPD's most notorious unit will use its training in protest suppression and surveillance to curb crime in these neighborhoods, particularly given that shootings have dropped dramatically and the only notable increase has been property theft.
Anyway, elsewhere in totally reasonable moves:
- Anthony D'Esposito, the retired NYPD officer running for Congress, was named in at least three cases where plaintiffs accused him of violating their civil rights—and cost the City some $82,500 in settlements. In one case, a woman was hospitalized after being denied medical care during an interaction with the Republican candidate.
- Matchless, a good bar that was allowed to live too long, is under construction. Naturally, it's rumored to be turned into condos.
- A new report finds fossil fuel companies have spent a combined $17 million lobbying against climate action in New York.
- New York State Senate candidate Brian Fox, a Republican running on a "law and order" platform, spent 10 days in jail in 2011 for driving with a suspended license following a previous DUI charge.
- Segundo Guallpa, who was incarcerated at Rikers and found dead in his cell last year, wrote a lengthy suicide note on the walls of his cell, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.
- Eric Ulrich, the New York City buildings commissioner and a former special advisor to Eric Adams, had his phone seized and was questioned by prosecutors in connection with an illegal gambling investigation.
- Unionizing Starbucks employees who are also Amazon Go employees on the ground floor of the New York Times building say they didn't know they’d be working two jobs at once.
- A group of Rikers inmates took brief control of the intake unit on Rikers Island after breaking into a closet and stealing riot gear.
- The Trump organization trial has been disrupted because a key witness has tested positive for COVID-19.
- And finally, there can never, ever be enough cops in the subway: