Proposed law would make police choke holds illegal, require officers ask to search

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- If an NYPD cop uses a choke hold during a take down, should his fellow officers arrest him?

Should every officer, during a police stop, be required to ask a person -- even if the person seems suspicious -- if he can search them?

Under two new New York City Council proposals, both of those situations would become law. The proposed laws are new restrictions on police that threaten to split the city council, particularly since the measures do not have the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who views them as possibly going too far. Part of the reason for that may be summarized in a comment made by the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union on Thursday afternoon.

"When a cop stops your kid, or my kid," said Donna Lieberman at a news conference on the steps of City Hall, "they ought to have to tell the kid, 'Y'know, you don't have to let me go into your pockets, but can I, please?'"

That's what the NYCLU director said police would have to say at the beginning of a police stop, under the proposed city council rule called the Right To Know Act. It was formally introduced on Thursday, along with a measure that would make it a punishable crime for a police officer to use a choke hold.

"On the side of every NYPD patrol car," said Right To Know Act co-sponsor, Council Member Ritchie Torres (D-Central Bronx), "you have three words. You have courtesy, professionalism and respect. The point of this legislation," Torres said, "is to give deeper meaning to those words."

The NYPD commissioner, for his part, said during a news conference Thursday that he could not see how the proposed laws would help.

Mayor de Blasio has also expressed reluctance to support the new measures. He's said that on rare occasions police choke holds may be necessary, and that he has concerns about requiring cops to ask for consent to search.

Both police and legislators agree that choke holds are already against police procedure, and that citizens already have a right to refuse a police search.

Still, said Right To Know co-sponsor, Council Member Antonio Reynoso (D - Brooklyn), new legislation is necessary, in his opinion.

"The majority of young men of color don't know that these rights exist," Reynoso told PIX11 News. "[Under the proposal], as an officer, you're going to inform these young men of color that they can refuse this search, and then [tell them]
they can exercise that right."

However, a big thumbs down against the new proposals aimed at limiting police power came from the man elected by the tens of thousands of patrol officers in the NYPD.

"They're coming from the point of view that the NYPD is always wrong, that's the first problem," said Pat Lynch, president of the police officers' union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, regarding the nearly two dozen council members who have signed on to the new measures. "The second [problem]," said Lynch, "is they think we work in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, rather than the City of New York."

It is not clear how soon, if ever, the two measures will get voted on in the full city council. The council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito (D - East Harlem) has not indicated what her stance is on the proposed items of legislation, or if she'll shepherd them to votes.

Mark-Viverito is a known ally of Mayor de Blasio. Again, he is not supporting the legislative proposals.


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