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Parks Police, Secret Service Agree on New Use-of-Force Guidelines in DOJ Settlement

The U.S. Parks Service and Secret Service have agreed to strict new guidelines on the use of force during demonstrations in the wake of the controversial protests at Lafayette Square in Washington DC last year.

The Department of Justice announced the new curbs Wednesday as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought against the government by Black Lives Matter and individual protesters over the conduct of agency employees.

“The federal government is committed to the highest standards for protecting civil rights and civil liberties in any federal law enforcement response to public demonstrations,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement announcing the settlement.  “These changes to agency policies for protest responses will strengthen our commitment to protecting and respecting constitutionally protected rights.”

Under the terms of the settlement, parks employees will be required to wear “fully visible badges and nameplates” identifying them, avoid the use of force, and “adopt clearer procedures for issuing dispersal warnings.”  Similarly, the U.S. Secret Service will amend its guidelines to make clear thast the “unlawful conduct” of demonstrations “does not ordinarily provide blanket grounds for use of force…”

The agreement stems from four civil cases arising from the June 1, 2020 protest held at Lafayette Square near the White House to protest the police killing of George Floyd. Demonstrators claimed they were forcefully ejected from the square in order to clear the way for President Donald Trump to stage a photo op at a local church. A subsequent report found no evidence to back that charge.

In a separate announcement, the DOJ reached a consent decree with Springfield, MA., police department following an investigation into their police department’s narcotics bureau found a pattern of excessive force, the New York Times reported.

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