Despite the city’s own policies, the NYPD uses the chokehold still and with impunity —
The policy couldn’t be clearer: “Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT use chokeholds,” says section 203-11 of the department’s Patrol Guide. But as last July’s fatal police assault on Eric Garner showed, reality is messier than the rule book — and more dangerous for civilians.
A new report from the department’s inspector general, released Monday, suggests that this much-reviled, supposedly disavowed tactic has never gone away; that officers sometimes use it as a first, not last, resort against those who verbally resist them; and that systems set up to investigate and punish those who abuse their power are unreliable and ineffective.
For a citizenry that rightly demands professionalism and accountability from its armed officers, this is not reassuring.
The report reviewed 10 cases between 2009 and June 2014 in which the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated accusations of officers’ using chokeholds (though not the Garner killing). In nine of the cases, the review board recommended the most severe level of department discipline, called administrative charges, for the accused officers.
But for all its efforts, the Civilian Complaint Review Board — a supposedly important layer of outsider oversight to protect the public from the police — might as well have been reporting to a brick wall. The report found that the Department Advocate’s Office, which until April 2013 was responsible for handling disciplinary cases involving the use of force, and the police commissioner at the time, Raymond Kelly, who had the ultimate authority over police punishment, had repeatedly rejected the board’s recommendations and decided to impose lesser penalties or none at all.