US Park Police used excessive force against journalists during George Floyd protests, inquiry finds

FILE - In this June 4, 2020, photo, protesters march on the Brooklyn Bridge after a rally in Cadman Plaza Park in New York, following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Few Americans believe there has been significant progress over the last 50 years in achieving equal treatment for Black people in dealings with police and the criminal justice system. That's according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) (John Minchillo, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – An internal investigation has concluded that U.S. Park Police used unnecessary force in a confrontation with two Australian journalists three years ago during the George Floyd protests near the White House.

The report by the Department of the Interior's Inspector General, released to the public Wednesday, determines that two unidentified members of the Park Police overstepped their guidelines and training in their encounter with the journalists, who were not named in the report. An Associated Press story at the time identified them as reporter Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers, who were reporting live on the protests for Australia’s Channel 7.

One officer struck Brace with a baton and the other struck Myers with a riot shield and pushed his camera. The report notes that USPP guidelines call for its officers to use “only the minimum level of reasonable force necessary to control a situation.”

Applying that standard, the report concludes that the officer identified as “Officer 1” followed those guidelines when using their shield to shove Myers back but violated them later in shoving Myers’ camera. The second officer’s actions were determined to be clearly out-of-bounds, for striking Brace with a baton as she appeared to be running away.

The report states that “an objectively reasonable officer on the scene would not have concluded that the Reporter posed a threat.”

The confrontation occurred during the June 2020 demonstrations over police brutality and entrenched racial iniquities, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. Floyd's death led to days of sometimes-violent protests across the country, with the D.C. protests centered on Lafayette Park across from the White House.

On June 1, about a half hour before a curfew was set to begin, law enforcement officers abruptly started clearing the area of protestors so that former President Donald Trump could stage a brief photo opportunity in front of St. John's church. The confrontation with Brace and Myers took place amid that push to clear the area for Trump.

The report notes that as members of the Park Police's specialized Civil Disturbance Unit, both officers had received advanced training “which included using a shield and a baton to manage a crowd.” However it also acknowledges that the officers were operating in chaotic circumstances under murky guidelines — noting that “the USPP policy does not determine ‘minimum level of reasonable force,’ nor could we find other legal guidance shedding light on this term.”

Park Police Chief Jessica Taylor said in a statement that she was reviewing the full report and that the matter would be referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility "to recommend any corrective actions, including disciplinary actions, if warranted.”

The report notes that one of the officers has since left the force.

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This story was first published on May 24, 2023. It was updated on May 25, 2023, to correct the name of one of the journalists. The reporter’s name is Amelia Brace, not Amanda Brace.