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Bills would outlaw police chokeholds and limit the searching of citizens

Two bills introduced in the City Council Thursday would make it a crime for NYPD officers to use chokeholds and require them to inform people they stop about their right to refuse a search.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he opposed the chokehold bill because in certain cases it's vital to protecting officers, while Police Commissioner William Bratton slammed both proposals as "part of the continuing effort to bridle the police."

The bill would make it a misdemeanor for officers to use the restraining technique. The July death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner after NYPD officers put him in an apparent chokehold spurred demands for an end to the practice already banned by NYPD rules.

The second bill would require police officers to introduce themselves to people on the street they consider suspect and inform them they can decline to be searched. Supporters of the bills said they are key to repairing the relationship between officers and many in the neighborhoods they patrol.

"We cannot improve police and community relations without first improving the on-the-ground interactions between police and civilians," said Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), the bill's co-sponsor

If police do not have probable cause or a warrant, they cannot search people without consent, he said.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, Communities United for Police Reform and others said the measure simply affirms existing constitutional rights.

Torres said 22 City Council members have signed on to the legislation, but Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Thursday she is not yet among them.

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) introduced the legislation making police use of chokeholds illegal.

Bratton said the bills are a "totally unnecessary intrusion into the workings of the department."

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) said the search bill risks demoralizing officers and making their jobs harder.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the bill shows the City Council is acting on "the belief that aggressively fighting crime to keep communities safe is a bad thing."

De Blasio said chokeholds in "exceptional situations" could save an officer's life.

"I want to respect our men and women in uniform who may be put into a life-and-death situation . . . and they have to defend themselves and that might involve a chokehold," he said.


With Anthony M. DeStefano and Matthew Chayes

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