Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Walter T. Mosley today announced the Assembly passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which would criminalize the harmful use of a chokehold by a police officer (A.6144-B, Mosley).
"I have worked with my Assembly colleagues to reform our state's broken criminal justice system. Holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions is a necessary part of that," Speaker Heastie said. "The NYPD ban on chokeholds was not enough to protect Eric Garner, and it is not enough today. This legislation will put an end to the practice across the state."
"Almost six years ago, we heard Eric Garner tell police 'I can't breathe' as he was put into a chokehold by an NYPD officer. His words now speak from the grave as we deal with the police killing of George Floyd under nearly identical circumstances. Hundreds of unarmed black men and women have been killed at the hands of police officers before and between these two tragedies. In 2015 I introduced this bill to outlaw chokeholds statewide, and I am proud to see it taken up today as we pass legislation to reform our criminal justice system. This is an important step forward, but it will not be the last. We must work to change the way that police officers interact with communities of color, or we will continue to see these killings occur," Assemblymember Mosley said.
The Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act would create a new crime of aggravated strangulation. This offense would occur when a police or peace officer, using a chokehold or similar restraint, applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person, hindering breathing or the intake of air, and causes serious physical injury or death. This would be a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
In 1993, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) banned the use of chokeholds by police officers. In 2014, Eric Garner was approached for selling loose cigarettes on a New York City sidewalk and was tackled by a police officer who placed a chokehold on Eric Garner's neck. Garner fell to the pavement, and can be heard on video recording, saying, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe." His death captured national attention, but was not the first death from a law enforcement chokehold in New York City. Additionally, between 2014 and 2020, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board reported 996 allegations from people who say they had been subjected to a chokehold.