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Elected officials push for chokehold legislation

Lancman is pushing for a chokehold ban
Photo courtesy of Rory Lancman
By Gina Martinez

Two years after a Staten Island grand jury cleared officer Daniel Pantaleo of any wrongdoing in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, The National Action Network held a rally for justice on the steps of City Hall last week.

City Councilmen Rory Lancman (D-Hillside), Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Robert Cornegy (D- Brooklyn) introduced legislation that would criminalize the use of chokeholds by police. So far the bill has 28 co-sponsors and the rally was an attempt to garner more support for the measure, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has already vowed to veto.

Garner died in July 2014 in Staten Island after being placed in a chokehold as he was being arrested for selling loose cigarettes in front of a grocery store. Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold for 15 seconds after Garner told police he was tired of being targeted and resisted arrest. Garner, a heavyset man, repeated ‘I can’t breathe’ as Pantaleo and three other officers restrained him on the ground. He died waiting for an ambulance. The entire incident was caught on tape and made national headlines. Protesters questioned the excessive force used on Garner who did not appear to pose a physical threat to any of the officers. The use of the chokehold was criticized by lawmakers and the fight to outlaw it continues.

The NYPD Patrol Guide forbids the use of the chokehold, but there is still no law against it. De Blasio has supported officers using the chokehold when the situation called for it.

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, attended the rally and called for the choke hold legislation to be passed into law.

“We need the chokehold ban to be legislation, not policy,” she said last Friday. “It can’t help my son now, but it may help your son. It’s been two years tomorrow that there was no indictment, no justice, no accountability. So now we need to change. We’re here today to speak about the chokehold bill. And we don’t need policy, we have policy. We need to pass legislation.”

Lancman, Chairman of the Courts & Legal Services Committee, said chokeholds are being used too frequently by police with little repercussions.

“Eric Garner’s family deserves justice and instead of receiving it, our city has added loopholes to make it easier for officers to justify using chokeholds,” he said. “The number of chokehold complaints received and substantiated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board is troubling proof that officers are using this banned move and facing little to no repercussions. It’s clear NYPD internal policy is not enough, and the New York City Council’s legislation banning chokeholds must be passed into law immediately.”

Councilman Daniel Dromm (D- Elmhurst) said there are alternative methods to restrain suspects and the ban on chokeholds could potentially save lives.

“In honor and in memory of Eric Garner, I stand with Council Member Lancman in calling for an end to the NYPD’s chokehold policy,” he said “Medical and criminal justice experts agree that chokeholds are dangerous and too often put the life of those under arrest at risk. The NYPD has safer methods of detaining suspects at its disposal, and must employ those methods.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.”

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