New York Makes Use of Chokeholds a Felony Charge

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Nearly six years after a NY cop killed Eric Garner, the New York State Assembly has effectively outlawed the use of chokeholds, making use of them felony charges.

Some victory.

At least they named the legislation after him, the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act.

I’ve chosen to post today on the New York action, and left you, dear readers, to rely on a Common Dreams crosspost I also put up, to discuss the broader national police legislation, proposed yesterday by the Congressional Black Caucus. among other mainstream Democrats, for reasons I will dispose of here.  I expect there will be ample opportunity to discuss this national policing legislation anon.

Why no discussion now of the national bill?

First, the odious Kamala Harris is front and centre in promoting the national bill, and I don’t trust her at all on policing reform matters nor for that matter on any criminal justice issues, frankly. She is aided and abetted by Cory Booker – to whom, rightly or wrongly,I give the benefit of the doubt. This may be partly because as a fellow rhodent, I understand the incredible pressures to which he is subject,

Some of the NC commentariat might pillory me for that statement. Bring it on!  Seriously, although I don’t myself know Booker, someone whose opinion I trust, does, And  so I would  give him benefit of the doubt in proposing this bill, which certainly forwards some worthwhile objectives. But it merely lays them on the table.

So that leads me to a second reason to laud  the NY state action,  compared to the national Congressional Black Caucus proposals. Republicans do not appear to be on board in support, and so I fear this entire exercise in Democrat-driven reform may at the end of the day reduce to nothing more than mere virtue signalling.

Away from DC machinations and back to New York. The action NY state legislators undertook, defied  police unions to put forward a countervailing reform measure. Which changes the law on the ground in the state of New York (where I happen to be a resident) which is much more significant than signalling a mere intent to change anything (as the national legislation does).

The New York measure creates a new crime called aggravated strangulation, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, and occurs when a police or peace officer, using a chokehold or similar restraint, applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person, according to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office. The offense adheres if the officer restricts breathing or otherwise impedes intake of air, and the action causes serious physical injury or death, according to, NY lawmakers pass law named after Eric Garner that criminalizes police cdhokeholds

Well. Pity similar measures weren’t ‘in effect at the relevant time, in either New York to help Eric Garner, or in Minneapolis, to stop what Derek Chauvin allegedly did to George Floyd.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo  has indicated he will sign the bill into law – as if he could do anything else, given the current political climate.   But I shan’t minimise the potential impact of this bill. Per a statement released by the New York State Assembly, 996 people have reported being put in chokeholds by NYPD officers since Garner’s death, according to a CBS News account, New York lawmakers pass anti-chokehold bill named for Eric Garner.

The New York law change doesn’t do squat for either Eric Garner or George Floyd. May each of them rest in peace.

But it will perhaps make New York cops think twice about using chokeholds going forward.

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  1. timotheus

    The votes in the state legislature were overwhelming (62-0 in the Senate and 140-3 in the Assembly). That means even the most intransigent cop-loving upstate and Long Island Republicans couldn’t dare oppose it. At one of the multiple marches and rallies in the city Sunday, our elected reps told us they had tried to pass it for years and couldn’t get it over the line despite a big Democrat majority. Things have changed.

  2. Alice X

    Ok, I’ll step down from my cynical high horse now in moderation. What are the numbers of Euros vs Afros who have suffered from aggravated strangulation. If this law establishes that no one should so suffer, it is good, but why should it be needed other than to say that no one should be so murdered? I am lost as the racial component, which seems to be endemic.

    1. Alice X

      Was it not said with Eric Garner’s tragic demise that the chokehold which killed him was illegal? I can only surmise that it being illegal and its result as being murder are only now closer to being the same thing. But maybe not yet exactly the same. Help me out here. When is murder not murder?

      1. flora

        An important question is whether or not this new law can hold consequences for violators even with qualified immunity SC decisions that have let cop offenders skate free in too many cases, imo.

      2. diptherio

        Yes, the NYPD banned chokeholds in 1993, plenty of other departments have too. It doesn’t stop them from using them. And I’m pretty sure that killing an unresisting citizen for a non-violent offense is already a crime. Given the multitude of legal get-out-of-responsibility-free cards cops are allowed, color me highly skeptical whether this leads to any real change. But I do hope I’m wrong and being overly cynical. We’ll see.

  3. Edward

    I hope this law means the police can not get away with strangling people. Really, though, shouldn’t current laws against murder be adequate, if the police immunity is eliminated, and if the U.S. resumes being a “nation of laws”? What is needed, I think, is to eliminate that immunity and actually enforce the law on everyone equally. We have too many laws and crimes and they are enforced imperfectly.

  4. Michael Fiorillo

    Don’t give Booker the benefit of anything: his time as mayor of Newark was mostly taken up with a vicious school privatization campaign, enabling of the odious Chris Christie and insipid performing for affluent white liberals. The man’s a fraud, and we’d all do best to deny him any credibility whatsoever.

  5. smoker

    First, the odious Kamala Harris is front and centre in promoting the national bill

    Actually, Corey (along with Harris in the background) ismost certainly front and center – as its Senate Bill Sponsor – in promoting the national bill.

    I’ve provided the government official link to that Corey Sponsored (on 06/08/20) Senate Bill S.3912 in your other Common Dreams crosspost, here.

    Sorry in advance, due to current browser issues I can’t allow the scripting to nest a comment to any responses to this comment without risking a computer crash. Also I have no energy left to even debate this if I could allow scripting, other than to say I agree with Michal Fiorillo’s – and most other’s – comments currently above.

  6. Steve Ruis

    Instead of doing this piecemeal, we should just jump to the conclusion that a police officer cannot mete out a punishment in excess of what the law would allow were a suspect to be convicted of the crime. So, if someone passing counterfeit or selling individual cigarettes is being arrested, if the police cause them to lose their life or lose a limb, they have exceeded their remit and shall be called to task.

    Maybe if the police are to pay for their excesses, individually and collectively, then the various perps in blue and their departments will clean up their acts. Being killed for shopping while black, talking back while black, walking the sidewalk while black should be death penalty trials for the killers.

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