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Report: NYPD, board differ on use of chokeholds

Demonstrators gather outside the funeral service for Eric

Demonstrators gather outside the funeral service for Eric Garner at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn on July 23, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

An investigation into the NYPD's use of chokeholds concludes the agency and an independent review board disagree on what defines the potentially deadly restraint and when officers should face discipline for using it.

The report, conducted by the city's Department of Investigation after the death of Eric Garner in July from an apparent chokehold, was released Monday. It also found officers have used physical force too quickly and need training in how to de-escalate a confrontation.

"One can respect the NYPD and still seek to address the legitimate concerns of the communities it serves," wrote Mark G. Peters, the Department of Investigation commissioner, in a report letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton. "There is perhaps no more important time for objective, independent and dispassionate review of policing in this City."

The department's Office of the Inspector General based its findings in part on reviews of 10 cases where the Civilian Complaint Review Board determined cops used NYPD-prohibited chokeholds and recommended discipline.

An NYPD spokesman on Sunday said the department has not reviewed the report and could not yet comment. Requests for comment from the Civilian Complaint Review Board were not returned.

Inspector General Philip Eure initiated the probe after the July 17 death of Garner during his arrest in Staten Island on suspicion of peddling illegal cigarettes. An officer pulled Garner to the ground and kept his arm wrapped around the man's neck. A grand jury decided Dec. 3 not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Among the recommendations: greater coordination between the review board and the NYPD to streamline officer discipline. It cites inconsistencies between the agencies on how and when cops should be held accountable for chokeholds, noting that the NYPD defines the tactic more narrowly.

Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly routinely rejected the board's disciplinary recommendations in several cases examined by Eure's office. The NYPD did notify the board of all use-of-force complaints as legally required, unlike the review agency, which did not consistently reciprocate when complaints originated with them, according to the report.

In several cases, the inspector general found officers immediately used physical force to respond to verbal resistance, indicating a need for better communications and de-escalation tactics.

De Blasio last month announced a $35 million program to retrain officers. But his support of protesters' First Amendment rights and remarks about training his biracial son to be cautious in encounters with police caused a rift with police unions, who say he is unsupportive of cops. The tensions were heightened by the deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos Dec. 20 at the hands of a gunman who posted anti-police rants on social media.

The Department of Investigation said it delayed the release of its chokehold report until after the officers' funerals.

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