'Chokeholds not illegal,' Bratton says

Herb Boyd | 9/11/2014, 1:22 p.m.
Nothing leaped from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s mouth like the words “Chokeholds are not illegal,” during his oversight appearance Monday ...
NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton

Nothing leaped from Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s mouth like the words “Chokeholds are not illegal,” during his oversight appearance Monday before the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety.

This was a stunning revelation after it’s been reported again and again by the media that chokeholds have been illegal in the NYPD since 1993 or 1994, depending on the source.

“Illegal” may be the troubling word here and not seen as the same as “banning” by Bratton. Chokeholds been prohibited by the NYPD since Anthony Baez was killed in a chokehold by Office Francis Livoti in 1994.

Bratton elaborated on the issue Monday by indicating that he would not support legislation to make chokeholds illegal in the city.

“I feel the department policies are sufficient,” he told the committee. “If lawmakers want to try to make that against the law, then good luck, but I won’t support it.” He explained that although chokeholds are against police procedure, they are not illegal in the state.

Protesters gathered outside City Hall expressed their demands for a change in police policy.

Some of the people in attendance raised their hands during his testimony as if to signal the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

There’s no law to deal with the issue of chokeholds, Bratton added. “I think the existing system of department policy as well as a district attorney being able to look at ‘Does it violate some other state law?’or ‘Is it a civil rights violation?’” he said. “I think there are more than sufficient protocols in place to address it currently.”

What Bratton did not stress was that the chokehold could be used by an officer who believed his life was threatened. Nor did he state that police cadets have not been trained to use the chokehold in 10 years.

After avoiding any discussion of the death of Eric Garner by a chokehold in July, Bratton devoted his attention to other changes on his agenda, including the retraining of the 35,000 NYPD officers. The retraining of the officers, he said, would require the hiring of more than 1,000 new officers. The police commissioner also said the training program would require between $25 and $30 million in the budget.

If Bratton’s plans were approved by the mayor, there was no indication, and when a spokesperson was asked about a possible accord, the answer was “No comment.”

Some officers will began wearing cameras as an experiment to monitor the behavior of the officers and those under arrest.