Following the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man allegedly killed by the police during an arrest, and public outcry protesting police brutality, a concerned NYC lawmaker is introducing two legislative bills specifically against unnecessary use of excessive force by police officers. The bills are expected to ensure that charges against police personnel involved in use of excessive force during arrests may be more severe.
Even though the use of chokeholds by police officers has been banned in New York State more than twenty years ago, the practice persist, prompting Council member Rory Lancman’s planned legislation. According to Lancman, lack of reprimand against officers involved in chokeholds incidents in the past has rendered the present rule useless. “Here we are, 20 after the NYPD placed and absolute ban on chokeholds, and we still see that they are widely used and sometimes used to deadly effect.” In his view, “Clearly, we need to do more to deter use of chokeholds and hold people accountable when they are used.”
Specifically, the anti-chokeholds bill is expected to designate the act a misdemeanor in the city of New York. Even with the present state-wide ban, the legislation requires a “proof of intent to obstruct breathing or blood circulation but without inflicting serious injury,” to impose punishment on erring officers. With Lancman’s planned bill, no such proof is required, but a complete blanket prohibition of use of deadly chokeholds altogether.
The other bill slated for consideration by the council is the one that lowers standard of New York City’s legal status on assault charges, from criminal intent to criminal negligence. In this instance, District Attorneys are allowed to bring criminal charges against chokeholds users. Even the NYPD defined chokeholds as “any pressure to the throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing.”
Priscilla Gonzalez of the Communities United for Police Reform reportedly said “We would applause legislative changes that increase transparency surrounding the NYPD’s use of force, and all accountability for all types of police brutality.” According to her, “For too long, there have been inadequate consequences for police officers who use excessive force, even when it had led to unjust death of unarmed civilians.”
Lancman seems to operate an open-door policy, and reportedly waiting to have dialogue with interested parties on the bill. “I think there’s a real interest in the council to make sure that tragedies like the one that befell Eric Garner never happen again.” He added “This is a council and a mayor that takes these issues very seriously.”