As part of a civil rights lawsuit brought against the City of New York by 16 animal rights activists arrested during the World Economic Forum, Federal Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein required the City to release a number NYPD internal reports regarding crowd control procedures used by the NYPD in recent years during political demonstrations (hat tip: Talk Left).
According to this New York Times article, the power of the police to secretly monitor political gatherings had been tightly controlled by a federal court between 1985 and early 2003 as a result of a lawsuit by political activists, however many of the restrictions from that case, known as Handschu, were eased at the request of the City in 2003.
As a result of the eased restrictions, and as indicated in the now public reports, the NYPD now uses more "creative" tactics, including preemptive arrests:
(I)n another report, dated Feb. 8, 2002, and signed by Capt. Robert L. Bonifaci, commander of the Queens North Task Force. Captain Bonifaci wrote, "It should be noted that a large part of the success in policing the major demonstration on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2002, was due in part to the proactive arrest policy that was instituted at the start of the march at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, and directed toward demonstrators who were obviously potential rioters." (Emphasis added).
Interestingly, the "obviously potential rioters" arrested during the economic forum were held by the police for up to 40 hours prior to arraignment which is twice as long as those accused of murder, rape and robbery arrested during the same time frame.
Also reported in the article was that the NYPD utilized undercover operatives during the protest:
The reports, which were heavily edited at the request of the city, also discuss the use of undercover officers at the protests. Captain Hardiman wrote that "the use of undercovers from narcotics provided useful information." And on Inspector Shortell's list of positive aspects of the strategy, he listed "the use of undercover personnel in the ranks of the protesters." (Emphasis added).
The article also indicates that the claims in this lawsuit mirror those made in hundreds of other recent lawsuits against the City brought by demonstrators who were arrested at war protests and bicycle rallies during the Republican Convention.
How interesting. It makes one wonder what type of "useful information" was obtained by the undercover operatives during the protests and whether it was even tangentially related to crowd control.
The good news is that the "war on drugs" has apparently been "won" since the NYPD has seen fit to divert the use undercover narcs from the drug war to the "war" de jour.