(NEW YORK) — New York’s highest court on Monday upheld the city’s ban on police use of chokeholds, a measure enacted after the widely publicized deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd following the use of force by police officers during their arrests.
The Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York and 16 other law enforcement unions challenged the law as unconstitutional, but the Court of Appeals said the New York City Council exercised a permissible use of its lawmaking authority in enacting the ban.
“The language of the section also provides fair notice of the conduct prohibited and is sufficiently definite to avoid arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement and is therefore not void for vagueness,” the ruling said.
In a statement, a spokesman for the city council lauded the decision as a win for public safety.
“The Council passed Local Law 66 of 2020 to protect New Yorkers from being needlessly harmed by improper police restraints, and we are pleased to see the New York Court of Appeals unanimously uphold it. Now that litigation has concluded, we look forward to the continued enforcement of this law to keep New Yorkers safe,” the statement said, in part.
The police unions said the law is unconstitutionally vague, arguing that it could be impossible for officers to assess whether the pressure they are exerting on a person’s chest or back, in the vicinity of the diaphragm, is making it hard for the person to breathe. The Court of Appeals disagreed.
“At its core, plaintiffs’ vagueness challenge rests on their contention that it is difficult for a potential offender to discern exactly when sitting, kneeling, or standing on a person’s chest or back results in compression of an arrestee’s diaphragm,” the decision said. “Both private citizens and law enforcement officers have long been required to gauge the impact of physical force used against others to ensure their employment of force is consistent with statutorily delineated parameters.”
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