New York, NY – A New York State Supreme Court judge on Wednesday struck down the so-called “Diaphragm Law” that prohibited New York Police Department (NYPD) officers from putting pressure on a suspect’s torso while making an arrest.
City leadership passed the more restrictive ban on chokeholds during the unrest that followed George Floyd’s death as he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, WCBS reported.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the new city ordinance into law in July of 2020 prohibiting the use of any restraint during an arrest that restricts breathing or circulation “… by compressing the windpipe or the carotid arteries on each side of the neck, or sitting, kneeling, or standing on the chest or back in a manner that compresses the diaphragm.”
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan got himself in hot water with the rank-and-file shortly after the law was passed when dismissed the assertion that officers were afraid of unintentionally breaking the new law and being charged for just doing their jobs.
“They’re concerned about [taking] a bag of crack off the right person, the right dealer, and their knee accidentally — unintentionally — going on their back,” NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee, the commanding officer of the Manhattan North detective bureau, told the chief, according to the New York Post.
“You know what?” Chief Monahan interrupted Chief McGee. “I wasn’t afraid when I was fighting the guy on the Brooklyn Bridge. We can’t be afraid.”
The chief was referring to an incident with protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge that left him with bruises and jammed fingers and several other officers more seriously injured.
The suspects accused of assaulting the police officials were arrested but later released without bail.
“What happens to afraid cops is, they end up dead. And that’s what happens,” Chief Monahan told a group of commanders assembled for a CompStat meeting.
“That’s why there are so many guns out there,” he continued. “We can’t be afraid. You’ve got every DA come out and say they’re not gonna charge that [knee on suspect’s back]. We can’t be afraid of doing what we do. We can’t walk away.”
The video of the meeting showed NYPD Assistant Chief Kathleen O’Reilly, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan North, spoke up and supported Chief McGee.
“Chief, but we can’t put our people in harm’s way unnecessarily” Chief O’Reilly began.
But Chief Monahan cut her off, the video showed.
“So, not making an arrest on a B felony is putting ‘em in harm’s way?” the chief continued. “I’m talking about a B felony.”
“A sale, hand-to-hand sale, that we shouldn’t be afraid to go and make [an arrest for] a hand-to-hand sale,” he insisted.
NYPD Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Pat Lynch released a statement that said the union hadn’t heard anything about district attorneys saying they wouldn’t prosecute, WABC reported.
“Chief Monahan claims that all five DAs agree that the City Council’s insane ‘no touch’ arrest law is invalid and they won’t prosecute it,” Lynch wrote. “That is news to us. If every DA believes that, they need to say so publicly to the cops on the street. Otherwise, we have to assume that we are risking arrest any time we lay hands on a criminal who won’t go quietly.”
Eighteen police unions, including the massive PBA, filed a lawsuit against the city that argued the new law wasn’t clear enough, WCBS reported.
The lawsuit alleged the new ordinance offered “no guidance on how an officer is to determine whether his or her actions are causing a suspect’s diaphragm to be compressed.”
New York Supreme Court Judge Laurence Love agreed with the unions in his ruling, WCBS reported.
Love said that the phrase “compresses the diaphragm” in the law wasn’t adequately defined as written and was “unconstitutionally vague.”
The city had proposed that the judge allow it to take that phrase out of the language of the law, but Love refused to allow that, WCBS reported.
The judge said that to do so would usurp the role of city lawmakers who had passed the ordinance.
De Blasio said the city would fix and implement the changes quickly, WCBS reported.
“The best way to do that is to pass legislation clarifying the law,” the mayor explained. “We have to do that in the context, obviously, of also protecting public safety and making it clear that our officers need clear rules to do their jobs well.”