Mayor de Blasio's spokesman confirmed today that he will not sign legislation that would make it illegal to use a chokehold in NYC. City Councilmember Rory Lancman of Queens introduced the bill in November, and, if passed, it would make it a misdemeanor for anyone to "use a chokehold in the course of effecting or attempting to effect an arrest." The maximum sentence would be a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
"The mayor would veto the chokehold bill as it is currently drafted were it to reach his desk,” de Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak told the Daily News. Chokeholds have been prohibited by the NYPD Patrol Guide since 1993; nevertheless, one year later a Bronx man named Anthony Baez Jr. was killed by an officer who put him in a chokehold.
According to the News, "De Blasio believes that the current NYPD ban on the tactic — which was blamed for the death of the unarmed Eric Garner in Staten Island — is sufficient and that it’s not necessary to make chokeholds illegal." When the legislation was introduced, de Blasio immediately made it clear he didn't support it. "I think the best way to handle that is through NYPD policy," the mayor said, adding something that underscores the police unions' remarkable distortion of de Blasio's positions on the NYPD:
I want to respect our men and women in uniform who may be put into a life and death situation literally one-on-one—them and a perpetrator who could literally mean to kill them, and they have to defend themselves and that might involve a chokehold. And so I don't think it should be made a matter of a legal prohibition. It should be handled by department policy.
The bill defines "chokehold" as a "means to wrap an arm around or grip the neck in a manner that limits or cuts off either the flow of air by compressing the windpipe, or the flow of blood through the carotid arteries on each side of the neck." The City Medical Examiner determined that Garner died from "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."
While considering a range of reforms to NYPD policies, the Times reports that police officials "have debated the effectiveness of the 20-year-old prohibition. Participants in the discussions have asked, for example, whether chokeholds should instead be classified as deadly force, permissible when someone’s life is in danger, but governed by the same standard and intense review imposed on an officer’s decision to fire a gun."
"The thing about it is, if you do it correctly, it doesn’t result in injury," Harvey Hedden, the executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, told the Times.
Councilmemer Lancman says he isn't commenting on de Blasio's decision until he speaks to the mayor directly. The City Council would need a two-thirds vote to override a mayoral veto.