Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT use chokeholds. A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air. – The NYPD Patrol Guide
According to the city medical examiner who performed his autopsy, ruled the death of Eric Garner the 43-year-old father whose death in police custody sparked national outrage, a homicide, saying a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo killed him. Chokeholds were banned by the NYPD in 1993, but as to date, the tactic isn’t prohibited by New York City law — or at least not yet (a bill has been introduced in the New York City Council that would make chokeholds illegal).
Rory I. Lancman and Daniel Pearlstein of the New York City Council wrote: The Eric Garner tragedy represents not merely the New York Police Department’s operational failure to stamp out the use of chokeholds during arrests 23 years after the NYPD patrol guide banned the technique, but our legal system’s failure to effectively deter chokeholds even after such high-profile tragedies as the Anthony Baez case in 1994 exposed the legal gaps that allow such conduct to go unprosecuted in state courts. The authors then examine the existing legal road map that investigators and prosecutors must navigate in determining whether criminal liability might attach to the conduct of the officers involved.
Despite being prohibited by the NYPD, chokeholds are still used by police throughout the city. The 1993 ban prohibits officers from applying any pressure to the neck, but a report from the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board found that judges in internal trial proceedings have weakened the definition of a chokehold, narrowing the definition to a hold that restricts breathing.
The NYPD has been warning officers, at least in writing, about the dangers of using chokeholds for decades. In 1985, according to the New York Law Journal, then-police commissioner Benjamin Ward limited their use, mandating that they not be used “routinely,” and disallowing their use unless an “officer’s life is in danger or some other person’s life in danger and the chokehold is the least dangerous alternative method of restraint available to the police officer.”
The case has incited calls for sweeping police department reform. New alleged chokehold videos have emerged in its wake, including one involving an alleged fare beater and another involving a pregnant Brooklyn woman who claims she was put in a chokehold when she questioned officers’ requests to move the site of a barbecue.
The arrest show in the video of an alleged Manhattan subway farebeater purports to show a police officer using a chokehold to subdue the suspect, just three days before Eric Garner. Rosan Miller, 27, of East New York, an expectant mom enjoying a front stoop barbecue with her family alleges a cop placed her in a chokehold outside her Brooklyn home when she questioned why he asked her to move the party to the backyard just nine days after Garners death.
So why are we talking about chokeholds and the death of Eric Garner, 19 months later? Because despite Garners eleven please for breath and his last words, ‘I Can’t Breath’ sparking a national protest, some including mainstream media are completely missing the point. That being that the NYPD banned chokeholds 23 years ago & yet the Civilian Compliant Review Board has over 1,128 chokehold complaints since 2009?
What we can not allow the media to do is use the next black live lost to take our attention off of that fact. The fact that despite being banned in 1993, the chokehold still isn’t prohibited by New York City law. We need to move in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in that we use our marching and protesting to change the legislation.
MLK was about changing the legislation and as we come near the end of yet another black history month, we should not allow the creative amnesia of the media allow them to rewrite history so we forget that when in our cries for justice today. Whether if be redistributing the pain, by imposing our own economic sanctions and willfully withholding our dollars or shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge and having die-ins in downtown Manhattan or at Grand Central Station, we must be about the business or affecting legislative changes.
As time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future and the outrage of the Garner case fades into yesteryears news, 23 years from now, when it happens again, we will still hear choruses of while it’s a banned tactic by the NYPD, it’s still not against the law and no officer will be brought to justice. We will still be singing Marvin Gaye 1971 lyrics, “…Don’t punish me with brutality…” in the title track to his eleventh studio album, What’s Going On. We are still asking what’s going on after every black live lost at the hands of the police department.
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today
That last line should be remixed to; ‘To bring some legislation here today.’ In closing I know many of you are saying ok so that’s New York City and the NYPD, I live (insert your city here). Well Dr. King said an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. You should care because any legislation the causes law enforcement to be brought to justice there, can only help when or if an incident was to take place where you live. Police officers may think twice about using excessive force if they see their brothers and sisters in blue, nationwide being prosecuted!
Let them know we will not stop fighting for justice and we will not forget. Do you remember in January 2015 when Mayor Bill de Blasio stood by his decision to veto chokehold legislation should it reach his desk. The mayor publicly made his veto plans known, all while calling for reform within the city’s police department, especially in the wake of Eric Garner’s high-profile case. Where was the mainstream media coverage or public outcry from the black community and our so-called leaders then? In the words of the great African-American poet Marvin Gaye; What’s Going On?