NYPD Doing ‘Top to Bottom’ Review and Retraining After Eric Garner, Thinking About Adding More Tasers

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Protesters for Garner. Photo: Spencer Platt/2014 Getty Images

Following the Eric Garner tragedy on Staten Island, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expects some changes. “As I have reviewed that incident and reviewed the training of the department, it is my belief that we are going to have to do more than just a review of Staten Island,” he said on Tuesday, promising a “top to bottom review of all of the training this department provides to its personnel … I would anticipate that coming out of this effort that there will be a retraining of every member in our city Police Department in the weeks, months and potential years ahead.” One specific focus, Bratton said, will be “on force, how do we train our officers for a takedown, how do we train them to use the various levels of force that they're authorized to use.”

One option? Tasers.

Bratton explained that he hopes “to develop state-of-the-art use-of-force policies,” and will visit the Police Academy next week to see how officers are taught to “take people down” and “take them into custody.” Definitely not chokeholds, like the one banned for 20 years by the department but administered on Garner, who then went into cardiac arrest and died. An autopsy is still pending, with pathologists looking to determine if the chokehold was a factor, the New York Times reports. “I would not be surprised if the U.S. attorney decides to open a civil-rights violation investigation,” said Bratton at yesterday’s news conference.

“The department really does need to do a lot more, a lot more, in the area of training,” he added. The president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association police union told The Wall Street Journal that they are “always in favor of training that make us better at our job. But what we really need training for is what we aren't allowed to do and what will get us in trouble.”

One potential tool that could be added to the officers’ arsenal: stun guns, which are carried by a limited number of New York City cops but could be expanded. (“There have been conversations, but nothing definitive,” an anonymous senior police official told the Times.) Then again, that hasn’t always gone so well for them:

[…] months after the police began to expand the use of Tasers, an emotionally disturbed man in Brooklyn fell to his death after the police shot him with a Taser. In that September 2008 episode, the man, Iman Morales, had engaged in a 30-minute standoff with the police, waving a fluorescent light bulb from a building ledge. A lieutenant on the scene ordered another officer with the Emergency Service Unit to fire a Taser at Mr. Morales, who fell headfirst to the sidewalk. Within days, the lieutenant, Michael W. Pigott, killed himself.

More training shouldn’t hurt.