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NYPD overseer reviews suspected chokehold cases

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NEW YORK (PIX11) — The NYPD's use of banned chokeholds is getting more attention from the first-ever appointed inspector general for the department.

He's slamming the move, as well as the lack of punishment for officers who chose to use it. Ten cases were examined and in four of them, the new Inspector General said words should have been used first.

The IG was appointed by the City Council in May, and Eric Garner's July 17 chokehold death sparked this review, although his case was not included in the report as it has yet to be fully reviewed by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Eric Garner’s last three words, "I can't breathe," were at the core of the weeks of protests here in New York.  And they also helped launch an investigation into alleged abusive policing.

The findings of that report:  there appears to be an on-going trend in the NYPD.

Verbal confrontations with subjects quickly turn violent when officers choose a chokehold over words to de-escalate a situation. The Inspector General just released his report on 10 chokehold cases spanning four years dating back to 2008. The main critique is that chokeholds are being used at all as they are prohibited.

“While the substantiated use of prohibited chokeholds by members of the NYPD in any context is troubling, the fact that several of the subject officers in the 10 cases reviewed by OIG-NYPD used chokeholds as a first act of physical force and in response to mere verbal confrontation is particularly alarming," the report noted.

Inspector General Philip Eure was appointed by the City Council in May in response to on-going problems with stop and frisk.

It was a job creation that was vigorously opposed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former police Commissioner Ray Kelly.  In all 10 of the cases reviewed by Eure, after the civilian complaint review board confirmed cops used the banned chokehold, they recommended a serious punishment.

Instead, officers were either stripped of five vacation days, given additional instruction or no punishment at all,  which would have been approved by then-commissioner Kelly.

Eure now has a staff of 40 investigators and attorneys, and his report also provides a road map of what the office will be investigating in the future, including how the NYPD handles summonses, those with mental illness and its on-going strategy of mosque surveillance.

The report really highlights what so many observers saw in the Eric Garner case. Namely, that the CCRB and the NYPD do not see eye to eye on whether the prohibited chokehold was even used, let alone how officers should be held accountable.