After chokehold death, NYPD to train officers on proper use of force

Story highlights

  • NYPD to institute use-of-force retraining after deaths of two suspects
  • Eric Garner died after police used a chokehold on him
  • Ronald Singleton also died after being put in a body wrap to restrain him
Less than two months after 43-year-old Eric Garner died in a police chokehold, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announced that all NYPD officers will undergo a three-day retraining period on the proper use of force when engaging a suspect.
The training will focus on how officers can avoid physical confrontations when talking to and restraining suspects, as well as how to safely take them into custody without bringing harm to either the individual or the officer. Officers will also undergo a leadership and cultural sensitivity workshop.
"It was evident to me and Mayor (Bill) de Blasio... that there was a need for a fundamental shift in the culture of the department, from an overarching focus on police activity... to an emphasis on collaborative problem-solving with the community," Bratton said before the city council's Committee for Public Safety Monday.
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The retraining will begin with a pilot program in November and then will then be administered to the approximately 20,000 officers who regularly serve on patrol. The remaining 15,000 officers will receive the training as part of their annual "in-service" training program. New recruits will adopt the new training program into their existing curriculum.
Funds needed for program
Bratton appealed to the city council for monetary support for the new initiative, estimating that the NYPD will need about $25 million to pay for additional trainers, expand the size of the Police Academy staff, and to cover overtime compensation costs for officers needed to fill in for other officers during their three-day training period.
Bratton ordered an extensive review of the NYPD's training procedures following Garner's death and hopes that new resources devoted to training will lead to overall improvement in officer practices.
"We cannot arrest our way out of every crime problem," Bratton said. "Arrests will always be a critical part of what we do. However, there are other tools in our toolbox we can use when the situation calls for it."
Death ruled a homicide
Garner, a father of six, died after NYPD officers confronted him on Staten Island for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally. During the encounter, a video shows a police officer grabbing the 350-pound man in a chokehold and pulling him onto a sidewalk.
The New York City Medical Examiner's office later ruled Garner's death a homicide. The cause of death was "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."
A Staten Island grand jury is expected to hear evidence in the case sometime this month.
Another restraint death
On July 13, another suspect died after being restrained in police custody -- a death that was also ruled a homicide, the medical examiner's office said.
Ronald Singleton, who was African-American, was taken into police custody after a yellow cab driver flagged down a police officer near St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, police said in a statement. The cab driver claimed the passenger was "acting overly irate and irrational, cursing and screaming and causing alarm," according to the statement.
Singleton got out of the taxi and "became combative with the officer, trying to fight with him," the police statement said.
The officer called for help and other officers responded, along with members of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit.
Singleton, 45, was placed in a "protective body wrap by the ESU officers," the police statement said.
An ambulance was taking Singleton to a hospital when he went into cardiac arrest, the statement said. Singleton was dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.
The NYPD said it was cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney's office investigation of the death.
The medical examiner's office said factors such as "hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease" and obesity contributed to Singleton's death.