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Chokeholds Not Rare in the NYPD, Investigation Finds

Review finds physical response often first reaction to 'verbal resistance'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 12, 2015 4:00 PM CST
Chokeholds Not Rare in the NYPD, Investigation Finds
New recruits wear bands over their badges in honor of deceased officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu during a New York Police Academy graduation ceremony, Dec. 29, 2014, in New York.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(Newser) – The controversial chokehold used on Eric Garner before his July death isn't the only time the NYPD has relied on the maneuver. A report released today by the police department's inspector general found that in several cases over the past five years, the banned tactic was an officer's "initial physical response to verbal resistance," the New York Times reports. The 45-page report examined 10 confrontations that took place between 2009 and 2014; that a chokehold had been used was verified in each case by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an oversight agency. And in each case, that agency recommended stiff discipline for offending officers, yet all of the officers whose cases have been ruled on received what amounts to a slap on the wrist, with many of those mild punishments doled out by former Commissioner Ray Kelly, the Times notes.

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The report was set to release last month but was postponed after the murders of two NYPD officers. The finding that "several of the subject officers" in these cases used chokeholds "as a first act of physical force and in response to mere verbal confrontation is particularly alarming," the report notes. A letter that accompanied the report said that excessive force is only one of four issues that should receive "proactive review": The other three are patterns of surveillance of religious or political groups, police interactions with the mentally ill, and patterns of low-level arrests or tickets. As for that last topic, there's been a significant slowdown in city parking or traffic tickets, as well as a dip in low-level tickets overall—there were, for example, no tickets handed out over the New Year's holiday week (including New Year's Eve in Times Square) for typical infractions such as open alcohol containers and double parking, the Times notes. (Read more NYPD stories.)

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