NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Tuesday ensured that a full investigation and new training for officers will be launched following the death of Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold by an officer during an arrest on Staten Island last Thursday.
Bratton said he has put Deputy Commissioner of Training Benjamin Tucker in charge of a “top-to-bottom review” of training procedures for NYPD officers, focusing specifically on the use of force.
The training review will involve consultation with multiple other police departments across the country, including the Los Angeles Police Department that Bratton formerly ran.
“The department really does need to do a lot more, a lot more, in the area of training,” Bratton said.
The commissioner outlined several categories that will be under review, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
“How do we train our officers for take down? How do we train them for various levels of force that they’re authorized to use: less than lethal, non-lethal, lethal,” Bratton said.
Bratton also said multiple investigations were underway in Garner’s death, and more are expected to be launched.
A criminal investigation already has been launched by the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office, along with an internal police investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.
Bratton on Tuesday also said the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will also likely launch federal investigations.
Watch NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton’s Full News Conference
Miller added that while he believes race is a serious issue in the U.S. that cannot be ignored, “I personally don’t think that race was a factor involved in (Garner’s) tragic death.”
But the new training for the officers will include cultural sensitivity and “consistent policing for our officers” no matter what population they are working with, Bratton said.
City Councilwoman Deborah Rose (D-49th) said the meeting with Bratton and community leaders ahead of Tuesday’s news conference was productive, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“He listened to the community and going forward we expect that we will not see this type of heinous injustice,” Rose said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has also said a full investigation is needed in the case Garner’s death.
The Garner family has hired an attorney and plans to file a civil lawsuit against the NYPD, CBS 2 reported.
Meanwhile, a massive prayer vigil was held Tuesday evening in the name of Garner, who was being arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes when the incident occurred.
A rally and march to the 120th Precinct police station preceded the vigil, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.
During the rally, Garner’s sister Ellisha was overcome by the outpouring of support.
“When people are negative, they don’t have outcomes like this. So this outcome shows how much Eric was loved. They might have thought he didn’t have nobody or a family, but this outcome shows you,” she told Baumgarten.
A video of Garner’s arrest shows an officer putting his arm around the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner’s neck as he was taken to the ground and his face was pushed into the sidewalk.
Before losing consciousness, he was heard yelling repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!”
Speaking from his family vacation in Rome, de Blasio said it’s important to wait for the investigation to be complete.
“As an individual who is not an expert in law enforcement, it looked like a chokehold to me,” he said. “But I also emphasize that you have a full investigation because all sides need to be heard and all evidence has to be looked at.”
The chokehold is banned by the NYPD. Police officials said Garner died while being transported to the hospital, but that a preliminary investigation shows no damage to his windpipe.
The medical examiner is still trying to determine Garner’s cause of death after the initial results came back inconclusive, CBS 2’s Sanchez reported.
While New York City Medical Examiner’s office was working to pinpoint the exact cause of Garner’s death, two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians who responded to the call were suspended without pay pending the investigation, Richmond University Medical Center said.
Two police officers on the case have also been placed on modified duty. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who appeared to have put Garner in the chokehold, surrendered his gun and badge.
Bratton has previously said officers “met resistance” in trying to arrest Garner Thursday.
“I do not expect my officers to walk away from that type of situation,” Bratton said Friday.
But Ramsey Orta, who shot the video of Garner’s encounter with police, said Garner had broken up a fight shortly before police arrived and denies the accusations that he was selling untaxed cigarettes.
“They were just going after him because of his past,” Orta said. “They didn’t witness him sell no cigarettes.”
At the time of his arrest, Garner told the officers who confronted him that he had not done anything wrong, according to the video of the arrest.
“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today,” Garner shouts. “I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone.”
Garner had been arrested 31 times since 1988 on charges including drug possession, assault and selling untaxed cigarettes, according to police.
He was facing two open untaxed-cigarette cases, plus a third case in which prosecutors dropped that charge but were still pursuing unlicensed driving and marijuana possession charges stemming from an August 2013 car stop, court records show.
He was fighting them all, his attorneys said.
Garner’s frustration first boiled over in 2007 when he filed a lawsuit against an NYPD officer, charging his civil rights were violated, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
The incident that brought on the lawsuit was a strip search that occurred at the corner of Castleton and Everton avenues in Staten Island in broad daylight, Kramer reported.
“The injuries I received was to my manhood,” Garner charged.
Garner claimed people were walking back and forth at the busy intersection, which also has bus stops on two corners.
In the lawsuit, Garner said he told the officer “…Stop and if he wanted to do a strip search on me I’m willing to go to the police station…because I had nothing to hide, my request was ignored.”
The lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality after Garner failed to update the court with his current address, Kramer reported.
Bratton said on Tuesday that he has no intention of backing off on the department’s emphasis on quality of life crimes such as the sale of loose or un-taxed cigarettes, 1010 WINS Al Jones reported.
“Nope, there’s no change in that focus at all. That’s a key part of what we’re doing,” Bratton said.
Meanwhile, the police union is standing by Pantaleo.
“This was police officers that wanted to place this person under arrest and bring them to the sidewalk, not a chokehold,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said.
Garner had a son starting college, five other children and two grandchildren. He had a couple of temporary jobs with the city Department of Parks and Recreation in recent years, most recently helping with horticulture crews and maintenance in 2013.
A funeral for Garner will be held Wednesday.
The NYPD’s Civilian Complaints Review Board has received more than 1,000 allegations of chokeholds over the last five years, 462 of which were fully investigated. Of those, the board found evidence that chokeholds were used in nine instances.
Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com:
- NYPD: 2 Women Attacked In Separate Incidents In Morningside Heights
- 12/11 CBS2 Monday Morning Weather Headlines
- Elderly Man Killed In Early Morning House Fire In Elizabeth, NJ
- Missing Dog Reunited With Owner In Brooklyn
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)