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NYPD tells officers in internal memo to prepare for deployment ahead of election protests

"We should anticipate and prepare for protests growing in size, frequency, and intensity leading up to the election,” the memo said.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Protesters rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Times Square in New York
New York City Police Department officers are pictured as protesters rally against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in Times Square, N.Y., on June 1, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters file

The commissioner of the New York City Police Department told uniformed officers to prepare for possible deployment in anticipation of growing protests ahead of and after the presidential election next month, according to a memo obtained by NBC News.

Uniformed officers of service of every rank should “be prepared for deployment” starting Oct. 25, Commissioner Dermot Shea said in the memo obtained by NBC News on Monday. That instruction includes many members of the department who don't ordinarily work in uniform, such as detectives, according to NBC New York.

The NYPD memo said the Nov. 3 election will be “one of the most highly contested presidential elections in the modern era.”

“There is also a strong likelihood that the winner of the presidential election may not be decided for several weeks,” the memo said.

“Accordingly, we should anticipate and prepare for protests growing in size, frequency, and intensity leading up to the election and likely into the year 2021,” Shea said in the memo.

All bureau chiefs and deputy commissioners will provide a roster listing of all uniformed officers under their command affected by the directive, according to the memo, with exemptions made for the special operations bureau, the highway district and the critical response command and bomb squad.

Massive crowds of protesters demonstrated in the city following the death of George Floyd in late May, leading to some clashes with police.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate after widespread reports, including some caught on video, of police violence against peaceful protesters. Demonstrators and some civil rights groups criticized the police response including incidents in which two NYPD vehicles drove into a crowd of protesters, an officer shoved a young woman to the ground and she hit her head against the pavement, and the use of pepper spray.

James issued recommendations of police reform after investigating the allegations in a preliminary report issued in July. Her office said it had received more than 1,300 complaints and pieces of evidence since May 30 via an online portal and hotlines related to misconduct concerning the protests.

The report found there were 2,087 protest-related arrests in the city between May 28 and June 7, most of which occurred after the city’s curfew.

The report also suggested that an independent commission be responsible for hiring and firing NYPD leadership and approving rule changes.

"I believe at my core, we need to bridge the undeniable divide between public and police, because trust is essential and critical to effective policing," James said at the time.

In an incident in September, a large group of police officers charged at protesters, diners and pedestrians in Manhattan's West Village, arresting 12 people and raising questions about the aggressive response.

Police said in a statement that they "responded to a large disorderly group obstructing vehicular traffic." But photos and videos from the incident appeared to show a different scene.

Brad Hoylman, a state senator from Manhattan, said his office was in touch with police about the use of force.

"We're exhausted of seeing video after video, and hearing from constituents in person, of inexplicable escalations that undermine an already fragile trust," he wrote on Twitter.