The NYPD’s Record On Chokeholds

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 13 2015 @ 9:13am

German Lopez voxplains a new set of findings:

The report, by the NYPD inspector general, looked at 10 cases involving chokeholds between 2009 and 2014. The Civilian Complaint Review Board recommended the most serious penalty in nine of 10 cases, but the NYPD reduced the punishment to lesser penalties — or none at all — in the cases that have been carried out to completion.

The NYPD’s guidelines explicitly ban the use of chokeholds no matter the circumstance. But the inspector general found police officers, in a practice called “particularly alarming” by the report, sometimes used chokeholds “as a first act of physical force in response to verbal resistance.”

Friedersdorf is troubled:

Consider one of those incidents:

In a Nov. 19, 2008, incident, a 15-year-old detained on robbery charges alleged he was choked by a sergeant while handcuffed to a rail inside a Bronx precinct house. CCRB substantiated the allegation based on another teenage witness in the station and the sergeant’s account.

Then-Commissioner Ray Kelly decided to impose the following punishment: no punishment at all.

New York City is policed on the theory that if small transgressions against law-and-order go unpunished, the ensuing disorder will result in a city where more serious crimes like homicide are more common. The NYPD flagrantly failed to police itself as officers engaged in violations of chokehold policy. Predictably, the tactic persisted. Yet later, when a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death, the cops disclaimed responsibility. They don’t want to be policed using the logic of their policing.

More incidents from the IG report highlighted here. The embattled mayor is downplaying the report, which, by the way, doesn’t include Garner’s fatal encounter. De Blasio’s nemesis, union boss Patrick Lynch, was true to form, calling the inspector general’s findings “anti-police bias”. And the police commissioner?

[Bill Bratton] believes better training can give cops better alternatives, and reduce not just the use of chokeholds but the chances of chokehold-related tragedies like the death of Eric Garner. … And Bratton is vehemently opposed to one step, proposed by the City Council — to make chokeholds illegal. “You cannot make it illegal because then it is really putting cops at risk,” Bratton told me in December. “Because there’s going to be times when they’re in one of these street fights, if they feel that they’re at risk of losing and they’re worried about themselves being overcome. Cops are authorized to use force appropriate to the threat.”

And this time cops should have no doubt about whose side Bill de Blasio is on. “Oh yeah, the mayor clearly understands that there are going to be instances where a cop is going to use a chokehold in a life-or-death situation,” Bratton says. “In that case, anything goes.”

Meanwhile, Caroline Bankoff checks in on the stoppage:

At the end of last week, Bill Bratton declared the NYPD work stoppage “over in the sense that the numbers are starting to go back up again.” “I anticipate by early next week that the numbers will return to their normalcy,” he added. The New York Times reports that the numbers do seem to be behaving as Bratton predicted: “In total, officers made 4,690 arrests in the week ending on Sunday, police statistics showed, according to a precinct commander who saw the numbers. The number is below the 7,508 in the same week in 2014, but above the 2,401 made between Dec.

Update from a reader:

The post regarding the recent report by NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board is quite misleading. A full report is available in this pdf. A crucial point that is being overlooked by many is as follows:

In its more comprehensive report on chokeholds issued in October 2014, CCRB reported that from 2009 through June 2014, CCRB received and disposed of 1,082 complaints alleging 1,128 chokehold allegations by NYPD officers. Of the 520 chokehold allegations that it investigated fully, CCRB substantiated ten chokehold allegations.

Thus, the CCRB was able to substantiate around 0.9% of the chokehold allegations during a 5-year period. I will grant you that a harder look should have been taken at those cases and perhaps some additional training might be helpful. But we all need to remain mindful of the big picture here and lay off of the sensationalism. Less than 1% is a microscopic number in a city the size of New York with a police force of over 30,000.