STATEN ISLAND -- The New York City Council will hold an oversight hearing next month on a police department review of its training procedures in the wake of the chokehold death of an unarmed Staten Island man, The Associated Press has learned.
Eric Garner died after being placed in a prohibited chokehold last month, and the resulting furor roiled the city, sparking protests, placing Mayor Bill de Blasio in a political bind and prompting a passionate reexamination of the relationship between police and communities of color.
Police Commissioner William Bratton pledged to do a thorough review of how the department trains its officers and promised substantive changes. He has agreed to provide an update to the city council in a hearing scheduled for Sept. 8.
"The New York City Police Department is embarking on an ambitious program to re-train all 35,000 officers so this hearing will be a critical way to openly discuss their methodology and procedures," City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Wednesday. "The City Council takes its oversight role very seriously and we expect to have a thorough and substantive hearing that will be informative to New Yorkers."
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was confronted by police for allegedly selling loose cigarettes near his home. In an encounter captured on cellphone video, a white NYPD officer can be seen placing Garner, who is black, in a chokehold and forcing him to the ground.
Garner, who was asthmatic, can repeatedly be heard saying "I can't breathe." He died a short time later and the city medical examiner officer's later ruled his death a homicide.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan has announced that the case will be sent to a grand jury, though many activists - including the Rev. Al Sharpton - have expressed worry that the district attorney is too cozy with the police and have asked for the federal government to take over the case. Sharpton led several thousand people on a march on Staten Island on Saturday demanding criminal charges against the officers involved.
Mark-Viverito, a Democrat from Manhattan, was the highest-ranking government official to participate in the march.
Two of the officers who confronted Garner have been reassigned while the investigation is conducted.
After Garner's death, Bratton announced at a press conference he'd already ordered "a top-to-bottom review" of all NYPD training, and pledged to retrain all 35,000 uniformed officers, especially in the use of force.
He also dispatched officers to Los Angeles to consult with officials there on their training procedures, vowing to create a state-of-the-art training program for the nation's largest police force that draws on the best practices from around the country. Details of the review and new training program have not been released, though Bratton said it would stress that chokeholds have been banned.
De Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, has signaled strong support for Bratton and backs creating a new training program. He has pledged to continue to drive down crime while repairing relations between minorities and the NYPD, a stance that has drawn criticism from some activists and the police unions.
New York City Council to hold hearing after chokehold death