Union head demands that State Troopers be pulled out of New York City over new use of force policies

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ALBANY, NY – One of my favorite scenes in the bio-pic Band of Brothers is when all of the Easy Company NCOs sit down and write letters to the chain of command.

In essence, the letters stated that the NCOs would rather turn in their stripes or face courts-martial than go into battle with their inept and ill-prepared joke of a company commander. Their reasoning: if he leads them into battle, he will be leading them into slaughter. 

Now, that scene is playing out in real time in the state of New York. And while it is not a bunch of soldiers singling out a leader in their chain of command, it is the head of the New York State Troopers Union demanding that 200 troopers be pulled out of New York City in opposition to the city’s criminalization of so-called chokeholds. 

In recent years, Gov. Cuomo has called upon the state troopers to increase their presence in NYC, mostly to assist in patrolling the city’s airports, bridges and tunnels. Hence the large presence of state police in the city.

On Wednesday, the same day that Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the “chokehold” legislation, the trooper’s Police Benevolent Association president Thomas Mungeer wrote: 

“As President of the New York State Troopers PBA, I am demanding that New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett immediately remove all uniformed State Troopers currently stationed within New York City and cease any law enforcement activities within that jurisdiction.

“We have arrived at this unfortunate decision due to the hastily written so-called police reform legislation recently passed by the New York City Council. This poorly conceived bill, which will be signed into law by Mayor de Blasio today, puts an undue burden upon our Troopers; it opens them up to criminal and civil liability for restraining a person during a lawful arrest in a manner that is consistent with their training and is legal throughout the rest of the State.

“Furthermore, this legislation will prevent Troopers from safely and effectively arresting resistant subjects.

“The imminent finalization of NYC Administrative Code section 10-181 will criminalize methods of restraint, including putting any pressure on a person’s chest or back.

These techniques are commonly used by many law enforcement agencies statewide and nationwide when officers are faced with violently combative subjects. I find it extremely troubling that these acts are now defined as criminal in nature, even if they were unintentional and no injury was sustained by the subject.

“Our Troopers have become a familiar sight in New York City over the past five years following Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s request to help protect the city’s airports, bridges and tunnels against the threat of terrorism.

Additionally, our presence there has significantly increased the safety of all New Yorkers as well as the millions of visitors who travel there each year.

“Despite the positive effects of the presence of Troopers in New York City, this constraining legislation leaves us with few other options. One option would involve New York State Attorney General Letitia James indemnifying State Police members from this ill-conceived law.

As that is unlikely to happen, it is the position of the Troopers PBA that if we continue to allow our members to remain stationed and conduct police activity within the five boroughs of New York City, we may be opening them up to criminal and civil liabilities simply by doing the job they were trained to do.”

According to the New York Post, the letter was delivered to the New York State Police Superintendent office earlier this morning, but as of this writing Superintendent Corlett had not responded to the request letter. 

Tension between some of the state’s lawmakers and law enforcement have been rising since the 2014 death of Eric Garner. His death became widely publicized after cellphone video allegedly showed the officer using a chokehold on the suspect, which some say ultimately caused Garner to die. 

eric_garner_chokehold_pantaleo
Former NYPD Officer Pantaleo attempts to take Eric Garner to the ground. (Screenshot – YouTube)

Conflicting reports from different medical examiners had yet to prove an actual cause of death.

Some said that it was because of the “chokehold,” others argued that it had to do with an underlying heart condition combined with the heightened activity of resisting police.

In July of 2019, the United States Justice Department concluded its five-year investigation and announced that it would not bring civil rights or criminal charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

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Pantaleo was fired after he was cleared of wrong-doing. 

But, after he was terminated, arrests in the city plummeted.

And experts say the two are directly connected.

“Who wants to be the last cop standing?” a Manhattan cop said in an interview with the New York Post. “If someone’s in trouble and needs help or if a cop’s in trouble, obviously, you do what you have to do as a police officer. But if it’s discretionary, why put yourself in harm’s way?’’ 

It seems that police are now fully aware of how much support they’ll get from the leaders of the city, and because of it, they’ve backed off.

Between Aug. 17, the day Pantaleo was terminated from the NYPD, and Aug. 25, arrests within the department dropped by 27% compared to the same period the previous year, the New York Post reported.

According to that report, New York City cops made 3,508 arrests compared to 4,827 a year earlier during that time.

Seems like police have realized that the deck is stacked against them. 

The topic of chokeholds were brought back into the spotlight after the death of George Floyd.

While Floyd did not die from the affects of a chokehold, the officer involved did kneel with his knee on his neck for close to nine minutes. That former officer along with three others are now charged in Floyd’s death. 

Now, many lawmakers, at the local, state and federal levels, are doing everything that they can to eliminate the ability of law enforcement to maintain control of situations. These legislative acts do nothing but put officers and the public in more danger. 

If the petition in New York is successful, will we see more unions seeking to do the same in cities where lawmakers have lost their minds and are handcuffing cops and removing their ability to do their jobs?

That remains to be seen. 

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