NYPD to get 3-day retraining course in wake of Eric Garner death

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Police Commissioner William Bratton faced hours of questioning from the New York City Council Monday as he discussed NYPD changes after the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

"Often times the vast majority of it is, quite frankly, resisting arrest."

In explaining the re-training of 20,000 police officers, Commissioner Bratton was asked for a breakdown of when officers exercise a use of force. He says some conflict can be avoided if members of the public file a formal grievance, instead of arguing with officers.

"To resist arrest, there is nowhere in the constitution that gives anybody the right to resist arrest," Bratton said.

"I do think people have the right to not want to be unlawfully arrested, accosted," said Councilman Jumanee Williams, Council District. 45.

It is this video of Eric Garner debating with officers and the subsequent apparent chokehold that the Medical Examiner says led to Garner's death that has led Bratton to revamp how officers deal with the public.

That retraining is the topic of more than two hours of testimony to the City Council Monday morning.

He said the department is looking into 1,000 CCRB complaints of chokeholds in the last year, which is of particular concern to Public Advocate Letitia James.

"Chokeholds are up 40% between 2012 and 2013 of the over 22,000 complaints against the police, half are due misconduct," James said.

But Bratton said some of the crime statistics are down. Homicides are down 13%, robberies down 13%, and rapes down 8%.

In November, Bratton says officers will begin a three-day training course that will focus how to deal with an uncooperative person and secondly how to restrain a suspect who resists arrest.

But he stopped short of supporting legislation to ban chokeholds.

"If the city, through its legislative agents of the legislature and the assembly up in Albany want to change the law, I don't feel that a law is necessary to deal with that issue," Bratton said.

There will be substantial cost to new training, Bratton said, including paying for the increased overtime. The training will require overtime to fill the tours left uncovered by the training.

"We simply cannot take vast numbers of patrol officers offline for three days to train them without back-filling their tours of duty," he said.

Police officers shot 25 people last year, down from 111 in 1990. In 1971, the NYPD shot more than 300 people and killed 93.

"A department that used higher levels of deadly force 40 years ago has been transformed into a model of restraint," he said, adding that police have shown an "extraordinary record of restraint."

Last year, 1.9 percent of arrests included use of force, the lowest rate ever. Officials say 4.6 percent of arrests included use of force in 2004.

A grand jury is to begin hearing testimony in the Garner case this month, and that could lead to criminal charges for the officers involved in his death.

Bratton said last Thursday that the NYPD will distribute 60 officer-worn cameras to patrol officers in the coming weeks. The department is looking for 60 NYPD officers to step forward and agree to wear the equipment, which will record their interaction with the public.

The equipment, whether dashboard or body cameras, is already being used by other departments, including the LAPD, which Bratton looked for guidance.

Here in our area, there have been vocal critics and outspoken supporters of the technology.

But last year, a federal judge ordered the NYPD to test the cameras out in a handful of the city's 76 precincts, after ruling police acted unconstitutionally by stopping and frisking black and Latino New Yorkers in disproportionate numbers.

Bratton called the cameras "the next wave" and predicted they would become as common as police radios and bulletproof vests.

The commissioner said the nation's largest police department was moving ahead with the program independent of a pending court order mandating the NYPD try out the technology to help avoid illegal stops of minorities. The order is still under appeal.

One version of the cameras being tested is worn behind the ear. Another is clipped to the front of the uniform.
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