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NYPD admits they've used unmarked vehicles to apprehend suspects for 'decades'

The New York Mayor and Governor expressed that they were disturbed by the viral video which show plainclothes officers taking a woman into an unmarked van

NYPD admits they've used unmarked vehicles to apprehend suspects for 'decades'
Image Source: Getty/ Protests Continue Across The Country In Reaction To Death Of George Floyd. (Photo by Scott Heins)

Trigger Warning: Police Brutality

An alarming video of a woman being abducted into an unmarked vehicle by plainclothes New York Police Department (NYPD) officers on Tuesday went viral on social media, earning condemnation from New Yorkers as well as politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The incident has come to the fore mere weeks after there were calls to defund the police department. In even more shocking news, it appears that this practice is commonplace for the NYPD, Salon.com reports. In an interview with NBC News, NYPD Lt. John Grimpel shared that the department's "Warrant Squad" has utilized unmarked vehicles to detain people for several "decades" now.

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When the video of the incident which happened during the Manhattan protest first surfaced online, the police department was quick to respond. Lt. Gimpel defended the NYPD's warrant squad. He stated, "The warrant squad is not going to use a marked [vehicle] to arrest individuals." While both New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed that they were disturbed by the arrest depicted in the video, they refused to acknowledge the NYPD's history of such abductions. Cuomo said of the incident, "It was so outrageous, they [onlookers] thought it was a federal action because it looked like something that would happen in Portland, Oregon. I'm surprised that, especially at this time, the NYPD take such an obnoxious action."

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The Governor was referring to the presence of federal troops in Portland, where anti-racism protests have escalated ever since President Donald Trump signed an executive order to send federal agents to the city. There have also been similar abductions in the city.

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Mayor De Blasio echoed his sentiments, claiming that it was the "wrong place" and "wrong time" for such an arrest to take place. "Anything to me that slightly suggests that is troubling to me and should not be seen in this city," he reiterated. "This is not Portland. I think it was the wrong time, the wrong place to effectuate the arrest." Neither De Blasio nor Cuomo, nonetheless, denounced the act of abducting alleged suspects with the use of unmarked vehicles by plainclothes officers.

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The New York Civil Liberties Union posted a statement on Twitter, calling the act "indefensible." The organization affirmed: "This is horrifying and indefensible. We’re looking into the incident that happened tonight, but one thing is for certain: violently forcing protesters into an unmarked van are the actions of a police force that think they can act with impunity. We won’t allow this in our city."

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Though it is unclear to see what happened prior to the arrest, the protester in the video (later identified as 18-year-old Nikki Stone) was allegedly "wanted for damaging police cameras during five separate criminal incidents in and around City Hall Park," Sgt. Mary Frances O'Donnell said. The officers who conducted the arrests were "assaulted with rocks and bottles," she added.

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However, the use of such violence—in absolutely any case—is unprecedented and unwarranted. Democratic House Representative Ocasio-Cortez has therefore demanded accountability for the action. She stated in a tweet, "There is no excuse for snatching women off the street and throwing them into unmarked vans." At present, it is unclear if the practice in and of itself will be contested.

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