NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York City Council will hold oversight hearings next month on a police department review of its training procedures, in the wake of the chokehold death of Eric Garner in police custody on Staten Island, The Associated Press has learned.
Garner, 43, died after being placed in a prohibited chokehold last month, and the resulting furor roiled the city, sparking protests, placing Mayor Bill de Blasio in a political bind and prompting a passionate reexamination of the relationship between police and communities of color.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton pledged to do a thorough review of how the NYPD trains its officers and promised substantive changes. He has agreed to provide an update to the City Council in a hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.
“The New York City Police Department is embarking on an ambitious program to re-train all 35,000 officers so this hearing will be a critical way to openly discuss their methodology and procedures,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Wednesday. “The City Council takes its oversight role very seriously and we expect to have a thorough and substantive hearing that will be informative to New Yorkers.”
Garner, an asthmatic father of six, died on July 17 after he had been stopped by police for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
In cellphone video of the incident, an officer is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s chokehold as well chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.”
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan has announced that the case will be sent to a grand jury, though many activists — including the Rev. Al Sharpton — have expressed worry that the district attorney is too cozy with the police and have asked for the federal government to take over the case. Sharpton led several thousand people on a march on Staten Island on Saturday demanding criminal charges against the officers involved.
Mark-Viverito was the highest-ranking government official to participate in the march.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who was seen on video placing Garner in the apparent chokehold, and another unidentified officer were placed on modified reassignment pending the outcome of the case.
After Garner’s death, Bratton announced at a news conference he’d already ordered “a top-to-bottom review” of all NYPD training, and pledged to retrain all 35,000 uniformed officers, especially in the use of force.
He also dispatched officers to Los Angeles to consult with officials there on their training procedures, vowing to create a state-of-the-art training program for the nation’s largest police force that draws on the best practices from around the country. Details of the review and new training program have not been released, though Bratton said it would stress that chokeholds have been banned.
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