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Review of NYPD chokehold complaints 'yielding troubling information,' official says

A meeting of the Civilian Complaint Review Board

A meeting of the Civilian Complaint Review Board at Staten Island Borough Hall on Sept. 10, 2014. (Alison Fox) Photo Credit: Alison Fox / Alison Fox

An audit of complaints of the use of chokeholds by New York City police officers has "yielded troubling information," said the chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board on Wednesday evening.

The board met at Staten Island Borough Hall, less than a mile from where Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold while in police custody this summer. His death sparked protests by civil rights activists and led to increased scrutiny of police tactics.

The CCRB has said it would review complaints of police chokeholds.

"The chokehold report is also going to be a an audit of the way the CCRB handled five years or allegations," CCRB Chair Richard Emery said. "The audit is yielding troubling information."

A correlation between chokehold allegations and force complaints was emerging, Emery said, but added he was hopeful the report would "give this agency a lot of credibility." The report was expected to be released in the next several weeks, he said.

Garner was placed in a chokehold in July when police tried to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.

A Staten Island grand jury will hear evidence this month in Garner's case, Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan has said.

The CCRB received more than 1,000 chokehold-related complaints from 2009 to 2014, said CCRB Spokeswoman Linda Sachs. Of those, 10 cases were substantiated — and most of those resulted in a virtual slap on the wrist or no punishment at all, according to a review of the dispositions.

The evening board meeting was a first for the board in over ten years, said CCRB Spokeswoman Linda Sachs. Emery said they hoped to continue the practice.

A recent rift between the CCRB and the public it serves has forced the newly appointed chair, Richard Emery, to defend his vision to prioritize certain complaints and help solve them more quickly. Emery was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Many in attendance at Emery’s first meeting criticized the board’s seemingly lackadaisical drive to make lasting change.

On Wednesday, several people in attendance said they felt the CCRB was unable to affect change. East Harlem resident Josmar Trujillo, 32, called the agency "toothless," questioning its ability to affect real change.

“There is still no urgency," Trujillo said, speaking to Emery. "We think the agency is a joke... We still don't have faith in you."

Emery defended his goals, adding he took the position because he was "optimistic" that he could "turn around" the agency, which has lacked public support in the past.

"The process has a lot of power. We bring officers in on virtually every case," he said. "What we're going to do is make it transparent. It's going to be a process."

On Monday Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced yearly “refresher training” for the entire department in front of a City Council oversight hearing, just months after promising a “top to bottom” review of all police training procedures following Garner’s death.

But Bratton also said Monday he would not support potential legislation to make chokeholds illegal in the city, citing his belief that “the department policies are sufficient.”


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