Dozens of New York City police unions have filed a lawsuit to invalidate a new chokehold ban — the latest counteroffensive against criminal justice reform legislation that the unions have long criticized.
“The law has been widely criticized by district attorneys, law enforcement officials and other experts in law enforcement,” the 24-page complaint filed Wednesday states, Courthouse News Service reported.
Led by the Police Benevolent Association, the lawsuit comes six years after Staten Island resident Eric Garner’s death in a police chokehold, captured on a viral video, drove thousands onto the streets in 2014.
After George Floyd's death May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, New York State and city legislators banned the practice in a suite of reforms to promote transparency, accountability and restraints on police, the news service noted.
The latest lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court attacks the city’s chokehold ban signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio July 15 as “unconstitutionally vague,” the news service reported.
“An ordinary police officer will be unable to discern whether many ordinary activities taken in the course of the apprehension and arrest of a suspect violate the statute,” lawyer Anthony Cole writes in the complaint.
The law does not require prosecutors to prove intent or injury.
“This punitive municipal law threatens police officers with fines and imprisonment for doing their jobs in good faith with no intent to harm a suspect, nor even any requirement that a suspect suffer injury,” the complaint states.
Asking a state judge to block the law, the unions allege four violations of the New York Constitution. The New York City Law Department’s spokesman Nick Paolucci said it’s “reviewing the complaint,” the news outlet reported.
The city lawmaker who sponsored the bill defended the reform Thursday.
“Today’s lawsuit challenging the City’s new chokehold law was filed by a rogue’s gallery of police unions who have for decades bitterly fought criminal justice reform, but their legal arguments fall flat and I am more confident than ever that the law will be upheld in its entirety,” City Councilman Rory Lancman said in a statement.
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