According to a leaked report, the NYPD can’t stop choking people. The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) has been re-evaluating the prohibited chokehold practice after an officer used it on Eric Garner during a minor crime arrest. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.
The CCRB report is incomplete, but its findings are clear. The NYPD has had 1,128 complaints between 2009 and 2013. Only ten were substantiated, or determined to be true based on a “preponderance of evidence.” Chokeholds have reached their highest frequency on record. “There were 6.8 chokehold allegations per 100 total complaints between January and June of this year,” the Village Voice reports. “In 2001, that rate was just 3.8 per 100.”
The report primarily blames a “redefinition” of the chokehold for disciplinary purposes, ignoring the definition contained in their own patrol guide, the police officers’ official field manual:
Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT [emphasis in original] use chokeholds. A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.
According to the CCRB, “institutional sympathy… tended to degrade the protection intended by that rule.” One result of that degradation is that 156 incidents that should have been classified as chokeholds were not recorded that way. In other words, police choked people and called it something else.
Even when someone is found guilty of applying a chokehold, they are given a slap on the wrist. The worst consequence an officer has faced so far is losing ten vacation days for using both hands in what may be more suitably called a stranglehold.
The leak of the report coincides with the first day of a grand jury hearing to determine if there was criminal wrongdoing in the case of Eric Garner. Retired police officers held a rally on Saturday in support of the officer who choked Garner. One ex-cop told CBS, “That was not a chokehold… You’re fighting — a 165-pound guy fighting a 340-pound guy. You take him down the best way you could.”
The fact that officers see any moment for restraint as a “fight,” might go a long way in explaining why they felt it necessary to throw a pregnant woman to the ground earlier this week.