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Bratton opposes council measures to rein in NYPD

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, center,

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, center, addresses the New York City Council concerning nine proposed bills on police oversight, Monday, June 29, 2015. Credit: New York Daily News / Alexander Cohn

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and his senior staff voiced strong opposition Monday to a series of City Council proposals, including one criminalizing police use of a chokehold.

The measures come after a year of friction between police and communities, notably over the death of Eric Garner in July. Garner died from what the medical examiner said was an apparent chokehold used by an officer arresting him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.

In testimony before the council's committee on public safety, Bratton was conciliatory but firm as he called the package of nine measures unnecessary and premature in light of ongoing changes and increased oversight from a federal monitor and inspector general.

"Let's give peace a chance, if you will," Bratton said, alluding to his so-called "peace dividend" resulting from lower crime and NYPD changes.

Among the measures was one requiring police to identify themselves fully when making a stop, question or search of someone and another requiring the NYPD to issue quarterly reports on the use of force.

Bratton was emphatic that the bill making chokeholds a misdemeanor during an arrest was unnecessary in light of changes being made in the department's use-of-force policy.

Criminalization of the chokehold raised concerns about the safety of officers, Bratton said.

"Let us be very clear, state law not only does not ban but it permits the use of a chokehold under appropriate circumstances," the NYPD's top lawyer, Lawrence Byrne, said. "We don't believe the council as a matter of judgment should contradict state law. It is as simple as that."

Councilman Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn), one sponsor of the chokehold measure, said he disagreed with Byrne but didn't press the issue further.

At a different event in Brooklyn Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio voiced his opposition to the council's measures regarding the chokehold and the legal requirement that police would have to identify themselves when they interact with citizens.

On Sunday, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said in a statement the proposals were misguided and "could have a further chilling impact on law enforcement."

Questioned by Councilman James Vacca (D-Bronx), Bratton agreed that there was a danger in micromanaging city agencies. "If the public desired the City Council get involved in the intimate management of those agencies, well then you don't need police commissioners," Bratton said.

Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx) told Bratton he thought the council had a legitimate role to play in police reform and shaping city agencies.

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