NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Charging the NYPD was guilty of widespread civil rights abuses during the Black Lives Matter protests, state Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to appoint an outside monitor to police the agency and oversee training and discipline.

New Yorkers have seen — and been appalled by — the videos showing bystanders sprayed with pepper spray, a squad car driving into a crowd of protesters, and a woman pushed to the ground by officers.

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James said those and many more occurrences were civil rights violations. She filed suit in federal court to force the NYPD to change both its training and discipline. But as CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported, James doesn’t think that Mayor Bill de Blasio or Police Commissioner Dermot Shea should be the ones to enact change. She wants a judge to appoint an outside monitor.

“The complaint outlines over and speaks to the fact that 30 incidents involved the use of pepper spray, 50 incidents in which officers used batons, 75 instances in which protesters were punched or shoved,” James said.


The attorney general charged that the police not only attacked protesters, but also went after legal observers and medics, including Rayne Valentine, who was on his way home from a job at Kings County Hospital when he saw cops beating up a protester.

When he tried to record it, the cops turned on him, beating him with batons, Kramer reported.

“When the beating finally stopped, they left me on the ground with blood streaming down my face I was in great pain,” Valentine said. “I had to get seven staples to close the gash in my head.”

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James’ lawsuit comes on the heels of a damaging report by the Department of Investigation, which found that the NYPD lacked a clearly defined strategy for responding to large-scale protests.

“My office is seeking broad injunctive relief against the NYPD and the city of New York in the form of ongoing monitoring, training, and permanent changes to unconstitutional policies and practices as it relates to large-scale protests,” James said.

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This isn’t the first time a monitor has been ordered to oversee the NYPD. In 2013, a judge appointed a monitor after the agency’s stop, question and frisk policies were found to have violated the rights of minorities.

Then-mayoral candidate de Blasio embraced the judge’s findings and even used his son in an now-legendary campaign commercial.

Ironically, de Blasio is not in favor of a monitor this time.

“I couldn’t agree more that there are pressing reforms that must — and will — be made this year,” the mayor said in a statement, but added, “A court process and the added bureaucracy of a federal monitor will not speed up this work.”

The NYPD also went on record opposing the appointment of the monitor.

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch pointed out that many cops were also injured during the protests.

“We will say it again: what we witnessed in June was a failure of New York City’s leadership. They sent cops out to police unprecedented protests and violent riots with no plan, no strategy and no support. They should be forced to answer for the resulting chaos, instead of pointing fingers at cops on the streets and ignoring the criminals who attacked us with bricks and firebombs,” Lynch said.

CBS2’s Marcia Kramer contributed to this report

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Marcia Kramer