Eighteen unions filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday against the City of New York’s new controversial chokehold law.
The NYPD, Port Authority, State police, MTA, courts and city district attorneys’ offices were among the unions that filed the suit, the New York Post reported.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of police accountability laws last month, including the chokehold legislation, which criminalizes use of a chokehold and bans methods of police restraint, like kneeling on a person’s neck, when cops conduct arrest.
Prior to de Blasio signing the legislation, NYPD brass pushed back and asked the language of the bill to be changed.
Councilmen Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) and Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island) voted against the bill.
The bill was introduced shortly after Eric Garner’s July 17, 2014 death on Bay Street after his last words “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for a nationwide anti-police brutality movement. Officer Daniel Pantaleo wrestled him to the ground using an apparent chokehold on him before he died.
The diaphragm clause of the chokehold law gives district attorney’s the power to charge an officer with a misdemeanor if the officer uses any restraint that could limit breathing.
District Attorney Michael McMahon previously called on the City Council to include an exemption to the chokehold ban that would allow officers to offer a justification defense in the event that the use of force was necessary to protect their lives.
The lawsuit says the legislation “stands to criminalize the lawful use of force, (and) threatens both police and public safety,” according to the Post.
The unions’ lawsuit challenges the city, stating the state’s less restrictive law supersedes the local law.
Cuomo signed the state’s legislation on June 12.
“The Mayor and the City Council took a big gamble with this law. It was pure politics,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the union delegations, according to POLITICO.
When asked about the lawsuit on Thursday, de Blasio said he wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit but felt the state law clearly states that the criminal justice system must take into consideration whether or not a person or an officer’s life is in danger.
“That is a very important and appropriate protection for all officers,” de Blasio said.