The definition of chokehold has become so narrow in recent years that the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which reviews allegations of police brutality, has miscategorized at least 156 allegations of chokeholds as a justifiable "use of force." A new CCRB examination of 1,100 chokehold complaints concludes that not only does the CCRB define chokehold so narrowly as to render it almost meaningless, but officers themselves don't really know what it is either. Some, according to the report, even call it a "facelock," while other people call it a "yoke hold." (Not to be confused with an egg-white omelet.)
The NYPD Patrol Guide banned chokeholds twenty years ago, but officers continue to use the method when effecting arrests. The practice came to the public's attention again this summer, when police were caught on camera using a chokehold on Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died during his arrest. (Yesterday the Garner family took the first step in filing a $75 million lawsuit against the city and the NYPD.)
According to the CCRB study, which looked at five and a half years of chokehold complaints, the NYPD has failed to properly discipline officers who use chokeholds. Why? Because the CCRB and the NYPD's Department Advocate's Office both "redefined" the meaning of the word to differ from the Patrol Guide. From the report:
In essence... the CCRB and the Department Advocate redefined a “chokehold” to require force to the neck during which an officer actually and substantially interfered with a complainant’s breathing rather than “pressure” to the neck which “may” interfere with breathing. In this respect the chokehold rule “mutated” to adapt to the NYPD disciplinary process, rather than the disciplinary process following the NYPD rule.
In other words, whatever doesn't kill you isn't a chokehold. Also not a chokehold:
Wouldn't it be great if we could all redefine our way out of a jam? No officer, I wasn't doing bong rips while hanging out the moon roof of a labrador-driven Dodge Dart, I was combating global warming by transferring toxic smoke from a glass receptacle into my lungs. It's safer there, trust me.
Chokehold complaints have soared in the past 12 months, and the study states that the CCRB "received the highest number of chokehold complaints as a percentage of both force complaints and total complaints since 2001." And yet, in the past five years, only 10 chokehold allegations were substantiated by the board’s investigators. (You say chokehold, they say joke: old.) In conclusion, the CCRB recommends retraining all 36,000 officers and a a "top-level" review of all use of force guidelines. Problem solved!
Read the entire report here at your leisure.