The 66-year-old police commissioner of New York City Bill Bratton testified in front of city council on Monday morning and he did little to assuage the perception that anything within his department is in need of major reform.
The session at City Hall was called to address changes needed within Bratton’s department and was in direct response to the chokehold death of Eric Garner, which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office. The chokehold employed by officer Daniel Pantaleo on Garner has been banned by the NYPD for 20 years and often is referred to as “illegal.”
But on Monday morning Bratton clarified to the council that a chokehold is only outlawed by his department, not technically illegal under the law. That prompted city councilman Rory Lancman to ask Bratton whether he would support a law making chokeholds illegal.
“I would not,” Bratton answered.
He also told the council that the NYPD is developing a new three-day training course to train police how to arrest without force. He said that last year “1.9% of arrests include use of force, the lowest rate ever. Was 4.6% in 2004.”
Other issues addressed on Monday included:
– Dancers are still a public safety threat. Bratton still fully backs the “Broken Windows” policy, which includes arresting subway performers. Subways “are not for dancing. We are talking with the MTA about giving an alternate space for performers.” A salient point raised by councilman Laurie Cumbo: “If literal broken windows lead to more crime, why not focus on fixing windows instead of over-policing people?”
– The NYPD is not collecting race data. Even with the number of summonses on the uptick, Bratton said there is no race data attached to them. He shifted responsibility of that to the legislature. Then added that the department “would not be opposed to including race data on summonses.”
– Bratton asked for 1,000 more police officers. He said it’d be a cost of $25-30 million, including overtime. When council members asked mayor Bill de Blasio this past spring for the same amount, they got a shifting of resources, no additional headcount. Right before Bratton testified, the NYPD tweeted out a recruitment link.
– The future of body cameras is unclear. “It would be very expensive,” he told the council. “We are looking for figures now.” Though the NYPD is launching a pilot program this fall that will outfit 60 police officers with cameras.
– Bratton inferred that all NYC cops could soon be equipped with tasers. “I am supportive of tasers. We are looking to see if the NYPD will use them.” Right now, only a small number of officers carry them.