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Department of Justice could look at NYPD during its review of specialized police units

CBS New York 3/9/2023 Marcia Kramer

NEW YORK -- More video of the Tyre Nichols deadly police beating was expected to be released Wednesday, but during the afternoon a judge blocked the city of Memphis' plan to release 20 additional hours of footage.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice announced a review of the Memphis Police Department.

The five former police officers charged with second-degree murder in the case were part of a special police unit. The DOJ says it will be looking into units like that one across the country.

READ MOREDepartment of Justice will review specialized police units in the wake of Tyre Nichols beating

As CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported, the NYPD could hear from the DOJ.

You could call the NYPD a target-rich environment for a federal assessment of its specialized units. It has been under the microscope a lot over the years.

"If they look at the NYPD what they're going to look at are the arrest statistics, the number of complaints, such as civilian complaints, Internal Affairs complaints, excessive force that was applied by officers within the department," said Darrin Porcher, a professor at Pace University and former NYPD lieutenant.

Porcher said it's still unclear if the DOJ will include the NYPD in its new review of specialized police units following the death of Nichols, who was allegedly assaulted and beaten by five Black officers following a traffic stop. The cops were members of a specialized police unit called SCORPION.

Although NYPD units have frequently run afoul of authorities over the years, Mayor Eric Adams, a former transit captain, re-established a specialized unit disbanded by his predecessor. He called them Neighborhood Safety Teams, put them in uniforms instead of plain clothes, made them wear body cameras, and said that better training and oversight would keep the units on the up and up.

"We are going to defeat gun violence, not only that is taking place in our city, but we're going to collaborate with our federal and state agencies to attack this problem across our country," Adams said a year ago.

Porcher is praising the mayor's efforts.

"I think the NYPD under the purview of Eric Adams is doing the best that they can," Porcher said.

There's no doubt that the NYPD has had a troubled lineage. Its stop-and-frisk practices were ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013. Eric Garner died in 2014 after an officer put him in a prohibited chokehold.

One thing the DOJ might look at is the recent city agreement to pay more than $20,000 to each of 300 protesters involved in a peaceful George Floyd demonstration in the summer of 2020. The cops were accused of something called "kettling," surrounding protesters and beating them.

"Sure, they can look at it," Porcher said.

Attorney Ben Crump represents the Nichols family.

"We must have transparency to get to the truth and we must have truth to get to justice," Crump said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for Mayor Adams told CBS2 that the NYPD has been given no indication the DOJ will undertake a new review of its practices.

The DOJ did not return calls seeking comment.

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