Choke holds have been banned in the NYPD for a long time, but a new report from the department’s inspector general concludes that officers routinely ignore that ban and use choke holds. Just as importantly, they almost never are held accountable for doing so.
The NYPD’s patrol guide expressly bans chokeholds. But the departmental prosecutor declined to seek internal discipline in the case. That decision was part of a larger pattern at the NYPD in the five years leading up to the July death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, according to a report from the department’s new inspector general.
“Our targeted analysis revealed troubling deficiencies from the top-down that must be rectified,” Philip Eure, the inspector general, wrote in a letter released Monday.
Time and again, Eure’s investigators found, New York police officers resorted to chokeholds first — often for the crime of merely questioning the officer’s authority. And time and again, the NYPD ignored discipline recommendations from the independent agency that investigated civilians’ chokehold complaints.
“NYPD bans on chokeholds and other practices are meaningless if officers aren’t held accountable for continuing to use them,” Priscilla Gonzalez, organizing director of the group Communities United for Police Reform, said in a statement. She applauded Eure’s report and called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton to take immediate steps to impose sterner discipline…The inspector general’s report delved further into the police department’s rationale for seeking lower or no penalties for chokeholds. In the case of the 19-year-old high schooler, for instance, the department decided not to seek an internal prosecution in part because the student “was being difficult.”
Disturbingly, in several cases police officers placed civilians in chokeholds “as a first step to overcoming verbal resistance.” In one case substantiated by the CCRB, a police officer responding to a 911 call stopped a man walking out of a convenience store in the Bronx. The man said that he had not done anything illegal, but the officer quickly placed him a chokehold.
If you’re the least bit surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention.