NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A pair of bills introduced in the City Council on Thursday target the way police patrol New York City’s streets.
One proposal would make the use of chokeholds by officers illegal while another would require cops to identify themselves to the people they stop and inform them of their right to refuse a search if there’s no probable cause.
As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Councilman Rory Lancman’s measure would classify chokeholds as a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
“The (NYPD) commissioner and mayor have expressed their opposition to the bill, but this is the start of a process,” Lancman told Lamb. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to engage the mayor in dialogue. But if not, hopefully the legislation will be able to move forward.”
Lancman, D-Queens, noted that NYPD policy already prohibits chokeholds, adding, “We need to up the ante.”
Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said the legislation is another step toward making the NYPD passive and ineffective.
“This bill is a bill written by people that do not have any experience in law enforcement and what it’s like to go out and do the job and many times have to deal with confrontation,” he said.
“Police officers have more oversight than any law enforcement agency in the country, and there’s state law that already covers this issue,” Lynch told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called the bill onerous and unnecessary.
“It’s part of the continuing effort to bridle the police in the city of New York,” Bratton told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “We have significant policies and effective policies in the department already.”
Bratton said he also opposes the stop-and-frisk legislation, also known as the Right to Know Act.
“It would give the public a false impression that they have the ability to not respond to the police,” Bratton said. “And we already have too much of that underway at the moment.”
Suspects cannot refuse a search if police observe suspicious behavior or a crime, or have a warrant.
City Councilman Ritchie Torres, D-Bronx, said officers too often stop mostly young minority men without giving their names. He also said cops conduct searches without effecting an arrest, or having a warrant or probable cause.
“This law would simply require the officer to inform you of your constitutional right — not a City Council-created right, not a state law-created right, but a constitutional right — to decline or consent to a search,” Torres said.
Lynch called the proposed law unnecessary and said it also sends a dangerous anti-police message.
Bratton said he has not discussed the bills with the council, but he plans to in the near future.
The use of chokeholds by the NYPD made headlines nationally and fueled protests locally this summer after Staten Island resident Eric Garner died shortly after being placed in an apparent chokehold by an officer.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, had been stopped by police in July 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!”
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop 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.
Four emergency workers were suspended without pay pending an investigation.
The 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.” Asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors, the medical examiner said.
A grand jury is weighing evidence in the case.
According to a September report by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD received 1,100 complaints about chokeholds over 5 1/2 years, but only 10 cases were substantiated.
Stop-and-frisks were a hot-button issue when Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in office.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in August 2013 that the NYPD’s policy sometimes discriminated against minorities. She ordered sweeping reforms to the policy, and installed a monitor to oversee the changes.
The Bloomberg administration appealed the decision, but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration dropped the appeal when the new mayor came into office this year. The police unions subsequently tried to take over the appeal, but a federal appeals court last month refused to re-examine the issue.
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