Win for the good guys…New York State Supreme Court rules NYC anti-chokehold law unconstitutional

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NEW YORK, NY- In a ruling for common sense, the rule of law and a win for the good guys, a New York Supreme Court Justice on Tuesday ruled New York City’s anti-chokehold law—otherwise known as the “diaphragm law”—unconstitutional, according to court documents reviewed by the New York Post.

Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love issued the ruling, the latest development in a near year-long legal battle that was initiated by a coalition of 18 police unions.

The unions challenged a section of the new measure that prohibits maneuvers that would press a suspect’s diaphragm.

Love agreed with the unions, finding that they had “demonstrated that Section 10-181 is unconstitutionally vague as the phrase ‘compresses the diaphragm’ cannot be adequately defined as written.”

“It is this Court’s sincere hope that the New York City Council will revisit the issue to address this vital matter,” he continued.

A spokesman for the New York City law department said that the city was “reviewing its legal options.”

The measure was passed by the city council and signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio last July and would allow prosecutors to file misdemeanor charges against officers if they used the technique during an arrest that restricted the person’s breathing “in any way.”

Police unions argued the law “criminalize[d] the lawful use of force” and presented a safety issue not only to officers but to the public as well.

The bill was among a number of kneejerk bills passed by cities across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died when a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine intoxication mixed with a heart condition and positional asphyxia led to his death. Former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second- and third-degree murder in his death.

At the time the bill was signed into law, former NYPD Chief of Department Terrence Monahan slammed the law, calling the “diaphragm” part of the bill dangerous.

The New York Post reported Monahan told WPIX-11 that he didn’t necessarily have a problem with the bill making it a criminal offense to use chokeholds, however took issue with the portion of the bill addressing diaphragms.

“The idea of the diaphragm bill—and I call it a diaphragm bill—because we have no objection to the chokehold portion of it, but any cop who’s ever fought with someone on the street, trying to get him into cuffs, there’s a great possibility that your knee is going to end up on that individual’s back, and now this new law is criminalizing it,” Monahan said.

“We try to avoid that, but in the midst of a fight, it’s pretty hard to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he continued.

“When you have to worry that someone who may have taken a shot at you that you are now arresting, if your knee hits their back, you become the criminal.”

The New York City ban also sparked outrage from nearby police departments, who told their cops not to arrest anyone inside New York City.

In addition, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr., who apparently took time off from his witch hunt against then-President Trump raised concerns as well, saying he didn’t believe the law would hold up in court.

In a Facebook post, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association applauded the court’s decision to quash the law, noting that it sought to criminalize “sitting, kneeling or standing” on a suspect in a manner that “compresses the diaphragm.”

 

The union claimed the law was “a cheap shot effort to score political points with the anti-police movement,” and slammed de Blasio for signing the measure into law “almost immediately.”

They said that along with a contingent of other police unions affiliated with the NYPD, as well as the New York State Police, they decided to challenge the law, which led to today’s successful result.

“I am glad to report that today, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional.

“This is an important victory for law enforcement and for the SBA. Not only does this decision eliminate the possibility you could face criminal prosecution for unintentionally kneeling, sitting, or standing on someone’s torso while making an arrest, it sends a clear message to the City Council and the Mayor that their anti-police policies will be challenged and defeated.”

The included letter was signed by Sgt. Ed Mullins, president of the SBA.

In a year where police officers and their respective agencies have been taking one negative hit after another, it’s good to see a win for the good guys. Kudos to the NYPD’s respective unions for fighting back against this draconian law.

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Meanwhile, we reported a while back about another Trump-chasing political hack, New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed suit against the NYPD for alleged excessive force against rioting thugs who terrorized the city last year. 

For more on that, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

 

NEW YORK CITY, NY – New York State Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit against the New York City Police Department (NYPD), alleging officers used excessive force and made false arrests against protesters last summer following the death of George Floyd.

Black Lives Matter and activists held large protests, often turning violent, across the country last year following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day.

The protests grew larger and more violent after other documented deaths of black persons by police, including the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 69-page complaint filed in Southern District of New York federal court claims the NYPD the response to the protesters was part of a longstanding pattern of abuse. James announced the suit during a press conference today. Commenting on the investigation, she said:

“When we found was an egregious abuse of police power, ramped excessive use of force, and leadership unable and unwilling to stop it.”

The civil suit also named Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Dermot Shea, and Police Chief Terence Monhan as defendants.

The complaint claims that the defendants violated the First Amendment rights of protesters. James, who called the protests “mostly peaceful,” said:

“In our lawsuit, we outlined years of the NYPD’s illegal and harmful conduct against New Yorkers, most recently at protests that began this past May which has led to significant injuries and violated people’s basic rights to peacefully protest.”

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James claimed that the police continued to violate people’s rights and used excessive force against protesters from May until December:

“NYPD officers engaged in blatant use of excessive force, and often misconduct, including the indiscriminate, unjustified, and repeated use of batons, pepper spray, bicycles, and a crowd-control tactic known as ‘kettling’ which caused significant physical harm.”

Kettling is a police maneuver where police confine a group of demonstrators in a small area as a method of crowd control. This type of force, some experts claim, causes tensions to rise and should not be used.

James said the NYPD also illegally detained observers, medics, and other essential workers in direct violation of a memo issued by Mayor de Blasio.

The Attorney General stated:

“We are seeking systemic reforms to the NYPD and the installation of a monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing tactics in future protests and to ensure they are complying with the law. With today’s lawsuit, this longstanding pattern of brutal and illegal force ends.”

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James was instructed to investigate the city’s handling of the protests in June by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo said he was concerned about “disturbing violent clashes” between NYPD officers and protesters.

The suit asks for a court order “declaring that the policies and practices that the NYPD used during these protests were unlawful.” The Attorney General is also asking for policy reforms and a monitor to oversee the NYPD.

The lawsuit claims Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Shay, and Chief Monahan failed to stop the pattern of abuse and false arrests by officers and allowed officers to violate protesters’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

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The Police Benevolent Association issued a statement on its Twitter account shortly after the press conference. PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said:

“We will say it again: What we witnessed in June was a failure of New York City’s leadership. They sent cops out to police unprecedented protests and violent riots with no plan, no strategy, and no support.

“They should be forced to answer for the resulting chaos, instead of pointing fingers at cops on the streets and ignoring the criminals who attacked us with bricks and firebombs.”

The NYPD also issued a statement reacting to the lawsuit:

“The New York City Police Department welcomes reform and has embraced the recent suggestions by both the city’s Department of Investigation and the city’s Law Department.

“As the Mayor has said, adding another layer does not speed up the process of continued reform, which we have embraced and led the way on.”

Mayor de Blasio said that he supports major reforms within the NYPD, but does not support the lawsuit or the installation of a  federal monitor:

“A court process and the added bureaucracy of a federal monitor will not speed up this work. There is no time to waste and we will continue to press forward”

In June, both Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Shea defended the NYPD’s response to protests. They called the officers’ actions proportional, and that a small number of misconduct incidents were being investigated. Both officials pointed to looting, widespread property damage, and attacks on police by protesters.

In October, the city was sued by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Legal Aid Society on behalf of protesters claiming they were assaulted by police.

The New York City Inspector General issued a report in December stating that officers resorted to aggressive tactics after being caught off guard by the size of the protests. The report was completed after 2,000 people were arrested in demonstrations in New York City from May to June.

Commissioner for the Department of Investigations Margaret Garnett said “the (police) response really was a failure on many levels.”

Following the Inspector General’s release of their findings, Mayor de Blasio stopped supporting the police response. He said:

“I look back with remorse. I wish I had done better. I want everyone to understand that. And I’m sorry I didn’t do better.”

Communities United for Police Reform praised the lawsuit. Spokesman Walter Winston Griffith said:

“NYPD violence against protesters is a long-standing problem and it’s a credit to Attorney General James that she’s using the power of her office to challenge the systemic lack of accountability for this violence.”

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