Court Upholds NYC Chokehold Law over Police Union Objections

Zachary Evans

A New York City law banning the use of chokeholds by police was upheld in a state court on Monday, following a challenge by police unions.

The legislation was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in July in reaction to massive demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers. New York saw a related controversy in 2014, when an NYPD officer attempted to arrest resident Eric Garner, but killed Garner after placing him in a chokehold. Former NYPD commissioner James O’Neill fired the officer in 2019, following a recommendation from a police judge.

The New York City Council in July 2020 passed a law by councilman Rory Lancman, a Democrat from Queens, banning the use of chokeholds by a vote of 47-3. The law was upheld in a ruling by Judge Laurence L. Love of the 1st Judicial District branch of the New York Supreme Court.

“The need to protect both police officers and the public is a vital and fundamental function of society and it is essential that sufficient safeguards exist to allow officers to safely perform their duties while ensuring the safety of the general public and individuals being taken into custody,” Laurence wrote his the ruling.

Police unions alleged that the law banning chokeholds would cause “irreparable harm” to the ability of officers to carry out their duties since chokeholds are one of the only tactics by which they can restrain a violent suspect. But Laurence disagreed.

“The court finds that Plaintiffs allegations of ‘irreparable harm’ are entirely speculative and without merit,” Laurence wrote. “While plaintiffs contend that their due process rights are violated by the existence of the [chokehold law], the reality of the situation is the opposite.”

Lancman applauded the ruling after its release.

“Time for the [NYPD] to embrace reality, and maybe(?) become partners for reform instead of obstacles,” Lancman wrote on Twitter.

The George Floyd demonstrations caused some city governments, including in Minneapolis, New York, and Seattle, to consider police reforms and to direct funding away from police departments for the 2020 fiscal year. However, the measures have fallen short of some activists’ demands to completely “defund” police departments.

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