A bid to fully repeal a city statute that outlaws the use of certain restraints as well as chokeholds by NYPD officers during an arrest has been introduced in the City Council. If approved, police would still be governed by a state statute enacted in June that bans chokeholds.
But it faces an uphill battle. The bill, introduced Oct. 15 by Councilman Robert Holden, a Queens Democrat, and widely supported by police unions, seeks to undo legislation approved 47-3 four months ago.
‘Living In Fantasy World’
The statute, part of a package of police reforms enacted this summer, made it a misdemeanor for officers to use chokeholds and restraint methods, such as pressing an arm into a suspect's back or kneeling on a person’s neck, when making an arrest. Convictions could subject them to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
“Anytime now cops are going to engage, they’re worried about that,” Mr. Holden said before the bill’s introduction. “You can’t have that kind of policing in New York City. We have some very violent people.”
The repeal bill is co-sponsored by Republican Councilmen Joe Borelli and Steven Matteo, who, along with Mr. Holden voted against the original legislation. Councilmen Eric Ulrich, a Republican, and Chaim Deutsch, a Democrat, who voted in favor, are also co-sponsoring the measure.
Mr. Holden said that coupled with bail reform and reduced funding for the NYPD, the restraint bill had shackled police work. “You’re seeing results,” he said, referring to a rise in shootings and killings.
Those who believe otherwise, he said, “are living in a fantasy world.”
“You need to talk to the cops, and I think most of my colleagues don’t, or are just trying to play to their base,” Mr. Holden said, adding that residents most affected by the wave of violent crime are people of color.
‘Endangers Every Cop’
Each of the city’s five police unions is backing the proposal.
Louis Turco, the president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association, called the existing statute “reckless and legislatively redundant” given a state law that makes it a felony for officers to employ chokeholds.
The statute “significantly hampers law enforcement from safe and effective policing, leads to an increase in crime and the additional victimization of the general public,” he said in a statement.
The president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, Paul DiGiacomo, called the statute “ludicrous.”
“A political, knee-jerk reaction by City Hall, the original bill signed in June endangers every cop and New Yorker, emboldens violent criminals—and needs to be repealed,” he said.
The unions sued in State Supreme Court, alleging the city’s law was unconstitutional since it was pre-empted by the state statute. They also contend it is unduly vague and ambiguous, as have some of the city’s District Attorneys. Although the unions’ effort to obtain a preliminary injunction recently fell short, the suit is proceeding.
Councilman Rory Lancman, the original legislation’s prime sponsor, has forcefully defended the statute against criticism from police. Weakening the law, he said, would severely compromise the City’s Council’s legitimacy as an oversight body, particularly with regard to the NYPD.
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