Even after the death of Staten Island resident, Eric Garner, at the hand of a New York City police officer, reports find the NYPD are alarmed at the choke hold ban.
In a report issued by the city’s first Inspector General Philip Eure, last week, Eure was shocked to learned of the continued use of the controversial tactic despite it being prohibited.
What was more shocking was that the cops received little to no discipline from higher-ups. In fact, in four out of ten cases, cops used chokeholds as a “first act” against citizens who only confronted them verbally.
“While the substantiated use of prohibited chokeholds by members of the NYPD in any context is troubling, the fact that several of the subject officers in the 10 cases reviewed by OIG-NYPD used chokeholds as a first act of physical force and in response to mere verbal confrontation is particularly alarming,” the report stated.
In a cover letter, Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters notes the report was “completed in the shadow of the horrific events of Dec. 20,” when Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were assassinated by an emotionally disturbed man intent on avenging Garner’s death.
Peters makes a point of praising the NYPD as “among the most professional and best-trained police forces in the world,” but suggests constructive criticism of the department’s tactics is good for everyone concerned.
“Neither the NYPD’s virtues and successes, nor its acknowledged importance to our civic life, should be used to prevent a discussion of genuine problems. One can respect the NYPD and still seek to address the legitimate concerns of the communities it serves,” he wrote.
Though the report focuses only on the 10 cases, the IG said the pattern he discovered has inspired him to examine a broader sample of use-of-force cases “in order to ascertain whether police officers are escalating encounters and using force too quickly in a systemic manner.”
“Rather than using communication skills and approved tactics to de-escalate tense encounters with members of the community, these officers immediately turned to a prohibited and dangerous physical act to try to control the situation,” the report states.
One can respect the NYPD and still seek to address the legitimate concerns of the communities it serves.
Eure’s report — his first since assuming the newly created position in May — looked at 10 cases from 2008 through 2012 where the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated allegations that cops used a banned chokehold.
In each case, the NYPD then ignored the CCRB’s recommendation for serious punishment, choosing either slap-on-the-wrist loss of vacation days, “instruction” about police policy or no punishment at all.
In an interview, Eure called this a “huge disconnect” that raised troubling questions about whether the NYPD simply ignores the CCRB as a matter of habit.
“If you have the CCRB at one end of the process making specific recommendations about discipline and you have a police commissioner at the other end of the process undercutting those recommendations with lesser penalties or no penalties at all, there’s a huge disconnect,” Eure said. “That can be tremendously undermining of the police disciplinary process. You’re talking about two city agencies coming out with two completely different results.”
The NYPD inspector general job was created last year by the city council in response to a growing outcry about cops stopping and questioning a disproportionate number of young black and Hispanic men. Then-Mayor Bloomberg and then-Commissioner Ray Kelly both vociferously opposed the position as redundant, but the council overrode Bloomberg’s veto and created the job.
Eure — who held a similar job in Washington, D.C. — started work in May. Since then he has assembled a staff of 40 investigators and attorneys.
You may read the full report when you head over to NY Daily News.
What are your thoughts on the findings sweethearts?