Yes, you read right. Mayor de Blasio, champion of positivity and progressive man of the people, has promised to veto a bill proposed by the City Council that would criminalize the use of chokeholds. If passed the legislation, which was introduced by Rory Lancman a Council rep from Queens back in early November, would make it a misdemeanor for police officers to make use of a chokehold. The bill defines a chokehold as being the act of “wrap[ping] an arm around or grip[ping] the neck in a manner that limits or cuts off either the flow of air by compressing the windpipe, or the flow of blood through the carotid arteries on each side of the neck.”
Back in December, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito condemned the use of “an illegal chokehold […] only one example of unwarranted practices” and demanding “accountability for officers who use excessive and deadly force in communities of color throughout our city.” And so far the chokehold bill has 29 supporters within the City Council.
On, Tuesday the Mayor’s office released a statement: “As is consistent with his previously stated views on this issue, the mayor would veto the chokehold bill as it is currently drafted were it to reach his desk.”
The proposed legislation comes in the wake of massive protests against the jury’s decision in the case of Eric Garner– an unarmed black man who was killed when a State Island cop used the chokehold maneuver to subdue him– and a subsequent report released on Monday detailing incidents in which NYPD officers made use of the maneuver despite the fact that it’s been banned from the ranks since 1993. The report tracks ten cases of chokehold use and the disciplinary actions to follow, finding that in several cases “the banned maneuver was the officer’s initial physical response to verbal resistance.” Yes, verbal resistance.
Worse yet, in every single case that’s been closed, the officers faced “little or no punishment by the Police Department.” So perhaps intervention by the City Council isn’t the worst idea ever, right? If the NYPD won’t police itself, then maybe a good ol’ fashioned legislative check on the NYPD will help in this regard. Legislation against the practice might be the only way to stop it– the same chokehold report found that the NYPD regularly ignored the recommendations of the Civilian Complaint Review Board when the oversight body recommended more serious punishment.
Though de Blasio’s office was clear that “as is” the draft is unacceptable, the Mayor has otherwise indicated he might not be in support of such a ban. On Monday, de Blasio hinted that he was dubious of the chokehold report and suggested that the findings did not demonstrate a consistent trend of cops using chokeholds. But this latest move by the Mayor suggests that de Blasio’s efforts to appease the wayward, misbehaving, and generally adolescent NYPD are increasingly at odds with the City Council.