By Patrick Donachie
City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for threatening to veto a bill he sponsored making the use of a chokehold in the process of an arrest a misdemeanor.
He also accused the mayor of what Lancman alleged were looser regulations over when an officer can apply the use the type of force that caused the death of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014.
“It’s a shocking abdication of the mayor’s responsibility to keep New Yorkers safe,” Lancman said during a news conference at the Harvest Room in Jamaica Tuesday morning.
In Patrol Guide 203-11, a use of force doctrine issued by the NYPD, officers were prohibited from using chokeholds, a regulation in place since 1993. On June 8, the NYPD updated the guidelines with Patrol Guide 221-01. Chokeholds are still prohibited, though the guidelines stipulate that the actions of officers would be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine if the practice may have been justified in the moment based on 11 new factors, including “actions taken by the subject,” “size, age and condition of the subject in comparison” to police officers on the scene and “the presence of hostile crowd or agitators.”
Lancman called on the mayor to revert to the previous regulations and to support his legislation, noting it was necessary because the previous rules did not stop an officer from applying a chokehold to Garner, who died in Staten Island. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor felony to use a chokehold during an arrest attempt, which currently has no criminal penalty.
Lancman introduced the legislation on Nov. 13, 2014, and it currently has 28 sponsors. The bill is currently laid over in committee.
On Jan. 13, 2015, de Blasio announced that he would veto the legislation if it came to his desk. A spokeswoman for the mayor said that there was no change in the chokehold prohibition policy embedded in the new use of force guidelines. At a City Council hearing on June 29, 2015, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, spoke about his opposition to the potential “criminalizing” of chokeholds by the Council’s proposed legislation.
Lancman maintained that de Blasio was unwilling to confront NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton about department procedures to avoid being seen as soft on crime.
“I think to some extent this is Commissioner Bratton’s way of asserting his authority, that this is his police force,” Lancman said about the new regulations.
He recalled that de Blasio had spoken eloquently about cautioning his biracial son on how to respond to police officers after the NYPD cops involved in the Garner case were not indicted. But Lancman said the mayor became wary of addressing such issues after the assassination of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn in December 2014.
“The officers were assassinated, the cops turned their back, and he doesn’t talk about that anymore,” he said.
A source close to the mayor’s office disputed Lancman’s interpretation of the new standards, saying that the 11 factors are to be used as a list of considerations in the process of determining the need for and severity of disciplinary actions in the event that an officer uses force.
Full copies of Patrol Guides 203-11 and 221-01 are available online at the NYPD Civilian Complaint Review Board website.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona