In Wake of George Floyd's Murder, City Council Introduces New Legislation to Reform NYPD
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other lawmakers including Council Leader Laurie Cumbo are pushing to pass two critical changes to policing that could materialize in a veto-proof majority if all goes to plan.
On Tuesday morning, Speaker Johnson was joined by Civil Rights leaders Rev. Al Sharpton and Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, when he announced that council planned to make any hold used by NYPD that cuts off airflow illegal as well as a standardized matrix for punitive measures for police misconduct.
Intro 536, sponsored by Council Member Rory Lancman, chair of the Committee on the Justice System, would make use of chokeholds a misdemeanor. This bill will be amended to include other deadly techniques, like placing a knee on a person’s neck. A hearing on this bill will be held on June 9.
NYPD was barred from using chokeholds such as in the example of the death of Eric Garner in 2014, but Johnson said it was now clear since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis that airflow can be cut off in a number of ways. “Chokeholds are not the dangerous tactic that we must end, so again our bill will cover any action that restricts breathing… The disciplinary matrix details appropriate penalty ranges for various forms of police misconduct and give the public more information on how the police are handling internal misconduct,” Johnson said. “I want to say I’m sorry that it has taken this long to pass these bills. These are bills that should have passed long ago, it should not have taken the murder of a black man in Minneapolis.”
"I cannot imagine the pain that Gwen has endured, and continues to suffer through as a result of losing her loving son, Eric to a fatal chokehold and pile-on by NYPD officers," said Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo in a statement. "The sad reality is that Ms. Carr is not alone in her pain. Far too many lives have been taken due to excessive force. Far too long murderers have walked free on account of false autopsy reports and distorted narratives. This must end, and it must end now. Thank you Speaker Johnson for stepping up to stand in solidarity with our community, and I am overjoyed to co-sponsor this legislation with you."
In addition to the chokehold legislation, Intro 1309, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, will call for the NYPD to create clear guidelines for police discipline, to create a process for to ban the use of excessive force and to weed out the "bad apples" that plague our police department.
"Oversight of practices within the department is critical to ensuring that officers are facing proper disciplinary action," said Cumbo, who has co-sponsored legislation introduced by Councilman Donovan J. Richards that would require the New York City Police Department to develop and post on its website an internal disciplinary matrix that would set forth a schedule of penalties to be imposed in response to violations of NYPD rules of conduct by members of service.
The NYPD would also be required to report the number and percentage of times the Commissioner deviates from the matrix, in a report to the Mayor and the Speaker. This is an important first step in developing a system that holds our police officers accountable, all of the time.
"I know that many of us are tired," said Cumbo in a statement. "We have endured a tremendous amount of stress over the past few months. However, Black Americans have been struggling with the oppressive nature of our institutions for centuries. As Martin Luther King Jr., said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."