The Council will also vote on resolutions to repeal the law that shields police disciplinary records from the public and to support a bill that makes chokeholds a federal crime
New York, NY – Council Speaker Corey Johnson today announced that the City Council Committee on Public Safety will vote on legislation in June to address police misconduct, including a bill to criminalize an officer’s use of a chokehold or other techniques that restrict breathing and a second bill requiring the NYPD to create guidelines for police discipline.
The world watched in horror last week as a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck while the black man cried, “I can’t breathe.” Floyd’s senseless death sparked protests across the nation to end police brutality and structural racism that allows such killings to happen repeatedly. Eric Garner was killed in 2014 when an officer used a chokehold on him in Staten Island. The officer never faced criminal charges.
Intro 536, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the Committee on the Justice System, would make use of chokeholds a misdemeanor. This bill will be amended to include other deadly techniques, like placing a knee on a person’s neck. A hearing on this bill will be held on June 9.
Intro 1309, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, was heard in 2019, but will be amended to call for the NYPD to create clear guidelines for police discipline. These guidelines, known as a disciplinary matrix, would be made public, giving all New Yorkers a better understanding of potential penalties for police misconduct. These systems are used in major police departments across the country to increase confidence in officers. It’s time for the NYPD to adopt its own.
The Council will also vote on three resolutions. Res. 750, by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, supports state legislation that would repeal the law that currently shields police officers’ disciplinary records from being released to the public, commonly known as 50-a. Preconsidered Res., By Council Member Carlina Rivera, calls on Congress to pass legislation introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries that would make the use of a chokehold by a police officer unlawful under the federal civil rights laws.
Finally, the Council will vote on Res. 27, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, which would call on the State to ban chokeholds and create the crime of strangulation in the first degree, would criminalize the use of a chokehold when a person disregards a ban on the practice by their employer.
“The rage we are seeing in New York and nationally over the criminal justice system is justified and won’t end until we send a clear message that we will not tolerate this kind of behavior and that there are consequences for using deadly techniques. We can’t expect the public to support a police discipline system they don’t understand or one that allows for controversial techniques to restrict breathing during routine arrests. New York must show the world that there are legal consequences for police misconduct, not just closed-door decisions based on unknown standards,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“The scenes of the last week have served as a catalyst in reminding New Yorkers what has long been clear— law enforcement officers shielded from accountability are more likely to act recklessly and wrongly. 50-a is a deeply damaging law that needs to be repealed so we can start the much-needed process of turning back the tide on the corrupting nature of secrecy in law enforcement. Now, as the nation demands accountability, I hope our lawmakers in Albany will make that repeal a reality,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams.
“These bills can be the real focus of where this nation can go. New York can set the example. There is a reason that people are energized all over the country. New York should set the tone because the first time we heard I can’t breathe was in Staten Island, it was not in Minneapolis,” said Reverend Al Sharpton.
“We want a police officer who uses a chokehold to be immediately locked up and charged. Officer Pantaleo was fired but that was not enough. New York needs to stand up and stop these killings.” said Gwen Carr.
“There are good men and women in police departments across the nation, and there are brutal ones. Instances of police violence have undermined the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color throughout America, including in New York City. George Floyd and Eric Garner are just two examples of the deadly effects of the epidemic of police brutality, and it is time to prohibit the use of chokeholds and other brutal restraints that apply pressure to the neck and result in asphyxiation. Their use is an unreasonable measure, an unnecessary measure, an uncivilized measure–and under the legislation I introduced in Congress, the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act–it would be an unlawful measure. I thank Speaker Johnson and the members of the City Council who support this important legislation,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
“George Floyd died in Minneapolis the same way Eric Garner died in New York, pleading that he could not breathe. Restricting airflow by way of chokehold is undeniably the use of deadly force, and it is past due that the use of that deadly force comes with real consequences. It is also past due that there be created a standardized disciplinary system for the NYPD so it is clear exactly how we’re ensuring accountability over law enforcement,” said Rep. Gregory W. Meeks.
“This has been a very difficult week for our country. We are struggling to find the words to express our frustrations, our outrage, and our desire to make the desperately needed changes that we do, in fact, have the power to make. Our challenge now is to channel the pain that we are seeing expressed in protests here in New York, across the nation, and around the world into productive action, and to bring calm to a nation that is justifiably angry and frustrated by our past failures to take decisive action. Over the next few weeks, I will be working very closely with my friend, Hakeem Jeffries—a vital leader on the House Judiciary Committee and in the Democratic Caucus—along with the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, and various civil rights groups and other stakeholders to lay out a set of policies that will promote accountability, transparency, and public safety in situations where law enforcement officers apply force against a civilian,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
“Almost six years ago we heard Eric Garner’s screams for help as he was choked to death by an NYPD officer. His gasping pleas to save his life in 2014 was a clarion call to all of us as New Yorkers. His words now speak from the grave as we deal with the police killing of George Floyd under identical circumstances. Their collective calls to save their lives now is symbolic of our collective call for immediate firing of rogue cops who have caused a loss of life, and the codification of comprehensive police conduct reforms. Hundreds of unarmed black men and women have been killed at the hands of police officers before and between these two tragedies. In 2015 I introduced legislation to outlaw police chokeholds statewide – it’s time we finally pass this bill and I thank Council Speaker Johnson for taking up this legislation to do so at the city level. We need to fundamentally change the way police officers interact with communities of color or we will continue to see these killings occur and our cities burning. This is a cancer and it must be removed from our city and state immediately,” said New York State Assembly Member Walter Mosley.
“Eric Garner, George Floyd — how many black men in New York City and across America have to die crying out ‘I can’t breathe’ before we make police chokeholds and neck restraints a crime? They’re already banned by NYPD policy, but last year alone the CCRB substantiated a dozen chokehold complaints. It’s long past time we upped the ante before another person is choked to death before our eyes,” said Council Member Rory Lancman, Chair of the Council Committee on the Justice System.
“NYPD officers, all of whom swore to serve and protect us under courtesy, professionalism and respect (CPR) should be held to the highest standard of law and public safety. The NYPD’s broken disciplinary system that has shielded officers lacked accountability and is an important step in restoring public confidence and trust, which is desperately needed right now. It will send a message to New Yorkers as well as every NYPD officer that fairness and transparency is the new standard and that no one is above the law, even if you’re enforcing it. The ‘bad apples’ eroding our city’s trust will no longer be defended or granted ‘white-shirt’ immunity. I’d like to thank Speaker Johnson, the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus (BLAC) and my colleagues for their support in passing this critical legislation,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Council Committee on Public Safety.
“Law enforcement officers are public servants and accountable to the people of New York City,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. “We cannot continue to operate with a high level of ambiguity in the discipline imposed on bad actors. Police misconduct is contrary to the very mission of the NYPD and should be addressed with swift and consistent discipline. We can only move forward as a city with trust in law enforcement and that starts with accountability.”
“We’ve worked for years to end unjust practices by the NYPD that disproportionately target communities of color. My colleagues and I in the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus have worked with the Public Safety and Justice System Chairs and others to hold the department responsible for the harm done to our communities,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus. “These pieces of legislation are incredibly necessary in this moment of crisis and are top priorities for the Caucus. I hope that we will continue working collaboratively to finally impart a semblance of justice after the shameful, years-long inaction by the NYPD following Eric Garner’s death. A greater degree of accountability for those sworn to serve is the right first step in allowing for confidence to be restored in our justice system.”
“The use of chokeholds were banned by the NYPD. This bill would make the use of chokehold a crime and would ensure that law enforcement follow policies and procedures or face the repercussions of their actions. Under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson and a united Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, I am proud that we are boldly bringing accountability to the New York City Police Department. The NYPD must be accountable to the people that they are supposed to serve and protect,” said Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo.
“Our city and nation have had too many regrettable incidents between civilians and police officers that have left people’s hearts in pain, fear, and with festering anger. The tragic, violent and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last week is one more wound that the collective soul of humanity must bear. We must stop the pain. We must take decisive action that demonstrates our commitment to change, and our recognition that these acts are inhumane. We are better than this. My Resolution 0027-2019 calls on the New York State legislature to pass and Governor Cuomo to sign legislation that would establish the crime of strangulation in the first degree. Our current laws don’t go far enough. Current State law designates applying pressure on the throat or neck with intent to impede normal breathing or blood circulation, as a misdemeanor, rising to a Class C violent felony if it results in serious physical injury. Clearly this is insufficient. I commend Speaker Corey Johnson for his leadership in moving this legislation forward.” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.
“Police misconduct damages public trust and confidence in the capacity of our police officers to uphold the law fairly and justly. That is why advancing this legislation is particularly critical in this moment. We need to reassure every member of the public that police misconduct will be taken with the gravity it deserves and that those officers who violate the public trust will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. There is a long road ahead to rebuilding the positive police-community relations every New Yorker deserves – that road must begin with transparency, accountability, and the assurance that police misconduct will not be tolerated,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr.
“If we are going to address the racism and inequality that still permeates this country, we have to start at one of most basic injustices in this country – that if you are black or brown in this country, you face the real possibility of violence or worse in even the most simple of encounters with police. And the chokeholds and other violent, life-threatening uses of excessive force that have been used by police to kill so many black and brown Americans have no place in New York City or anywhere in this country. I’m proud that we will be voting on my Resolution calling for the passage of the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act of 2019, as well as all of the bills in this package, and I look forward to further legislative actions to address police misconduct and injustice,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.