Mayor Bill de Blasio is to host a "police-community roundtable" this morning with the Rev. Al Sharpton, NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton and other leaders, in City Hall's latest move to calm an uproar over Eric Garner's death during an arrest over a petty offense.
Early Wednesday evening, Bratton and top brass met at police headquarters for "well over an hour" with about 15 civil-rights leaders, said Cornell William Brooks, president of the NAACP, who led the delegation.
Calling Garner's death after video showed a police officer apparently using a banned chokehold on the Staten Island father of six "a tragic opportunity," Brooks said Bratton made a host of promises -- including retraining officers, improving relationships with the public, as well as exploring the expansion of surveillance cameras to document encounters with civilians and the potential for reining in aggressive policing for low-level offenses.
"One does not use a meat cleaver when a scalpel will do. One does not use a hammer when a gentle touch will do," Brooks told reporters after the meeting.
Brooks said Bratton pointed to his success in improving police-community relations during his tenure as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Garner, 43, died July 17 during an arrest for allegedly peddling untaxed loose cigarettes. A bystander's cellphone video showed a since-suspended police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, using what Bratton said appeared to be a chokehold. Pantaleo has been stripped of his police shield and gun.
De Blasio has called the death "a terrible tragedy."
Brooks also met with the NYPD inspector general, Philip Eure, and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who is investigating Garner's death. Brooks said he'll judge their sincerity by what "we hear more over the months to come." He said he's "hopeful" about Bratton's pledges.
Bratton said: "The NYPD is committed to building relationships with grassroots-based organizations such as the NAACP, to ease tensions in our communities as we began a major reform of the department's training and policies."