Police force tactics get redefined

By Sadef Ali Kully

The NYPD announced new guidelines on police use of force last week by redefining the controversial tactic and introduced a new system to document its use, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

Since the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died last year in a police chokehold, the use of force in police encounters has come under scrutiny.

According to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, since January there have been 462 complaints in Queens made against police use of force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language.

Citywide, there have been 2,622 complaints in the same period, according to the CCRB’s most recent report.

“The NYPD has been a leader in firearms policy for more than 40 years, but our policies and training in other uses of force have lagged,” Bratton said. “We are moving now to address all other uses of force in a comprehensive way, with new policies, new reporting procedures, new investigative protocols, and regular annual training.”

Bratton did point out that when force is used against officers, or when people physically resist arrest, the appropriate use of force is lawful and proper.

The reforms include clear definitions of the levels of force, reporting and investigation requirements at each level, as well as revised policies that require officers to intervene in and report any excessive use of force they may witness.

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest),chair of the Courts and Legal Services Committee, sponsored the bill in the Council to require use-of-force reporting, said, “The current lack of reporting and data on use of force has made it impossible to determine if force is being used correctly and has undermined public confidence in our police.”

The new reforms were praised by Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This is a key part of our efforts to implement a proactive neighborhood policing vision, and deepen the connection between police and the community,” the mayor said.

The complaints will be documented through the Force Incident Report to track and analyze all instances of use of force department-wide, which will be reported to the Force Investigation Division.

Over 20,000 officers have received annual recruit and in-service training in conflict de-escalation, in managing arrests and confrontational situations and in take-down tactics, when necessary, that protect both civilian and officer safety, according to police officials.

For some the changes were met with apprehension. “More paperwork coupled with a serious shortage of police officers and the continual second-guessing of their actions is a formula for disaster,” PBA president Pat Lynch said.

The reforms came after the Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD released a report on the lack of discipline and accountability on the use of force in the NYPD.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.