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NYPD commissioner calls for officer retraining after chokehold incident

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, center,

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, center, joins members of the City Council's Black, Latino & Asian Caucus and the NYS Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislators Caucus during a joint press conference in front of City Hall to urge the NYPD, Richmond County Medical Center (RUMC) and the Staten Island District Attorney to conduct an investigation into the death of Eric Garner, 43, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

All officers in the NYPD will be retrained in the use of force following a police chokehold last week on a 35-year-old Staten Island man who later died, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday.

Speaking with reporters at NYPD headquarters, Bratton said the department had "to do a lot more, a lot more in the area of training" and he ordered a top-to-bottom review of what preparation the NYPD gives its 35,000 uniformed personnel. Bratton also said he would be sending a team to Los Angeles to study how that department revised its use-of-force training methods after controversies over police use of force there led to a federal consent decree.

The extensive retraining ordered by Bratton, which could take years, comes as the NYPD has faced its first serious controversy under his command over the use of force before the death of 350-pound Eric Garner, who died of apparent cardiac arrest after the officers tried to arrest him over illegal cigarette sales. Amateur video images showed officer Daniel Pantaleo using what Bratton said was a chokehold, a tactic banned by the NYPD more than two decades ago.

While announcing steps to quell criticism of the department's use-of-force training, Bratton said he didn't think race played any role in the chokehold incident as state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) stated at a rally Tuesday outside City Hall. Garner was black and Pantaleo is white.

"I personally don't think that race was a factor in the incident involved in this tragic death," Bratton said. "Certainly the issue of race is one that is first and foremost in this country in so many ways, it is something we cannot ignore."

He said NYPD training going forward would include increased minority representation in the force as well as increased cultural sensitivity programs for officers so that policing is "consistent" in all ethnic and racial communities.

Bratton also said that he won't back down from his adherence to the so-called broken window theory of policing -- which aims to halt minor crimes such as fare evasion and unlicensed street vending to prevent more serious crimes.

"There is no change in that focus at all," Bratton said firmly. "It is a key part of what we are doing."

Tuesday's briefing for the media capped a busy day in which Bratton and some of his senior commanders traveled to Staten Island to talk with borough commanders and clergy. Bratton noted that Garner's wake and funeral will take place Wednesday at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

Bratton wouldn't talk about the specifics of the Garner incident because of a pending criminal investigation by Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan. He also has met with FBI officials who are monitoring the case in what is expected to be full-blown civil rights investigation by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

With Emily Ngo

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