KEY TO POLICE REFORM
In the wake of a viral video showing a cop in Queens
choking an individual on the Rockaway Boardwalk
on Sunday, June 21, the NYPD did not waste a second
making its response to the incident clear.
Within hours of the video being circulated, the
NYPD quickly identified and suspended the officer
without pay. They also released video from the officer’s
body cam of the incident that same day — something
unheard of since the department began using them as
a means of officer accountability.
In two statements, including one from Police Commissioner
Dermot Shea, the NYPD made clear that it
was taking the incident seriously, would investigate it
thoroughly, and hold accountable the officer if wrongdoing
was determined. Certainly, it appeared from
the video that the officer not only broke protocol, but
also the law: cops in New York state are now prohibited
from putting individuals in a chokehold while attempting
to subdue them.
“While a full investigation is still underway, there
is no question in my mind that this immediate action
is necessary,” Commissioner Shea said of the incident.
“We are committed to transparency as this process
The incident happened at a time of great unrest
in the city and country, with much anger directed at
the NYPD for past incidents of police brutality. It led
to repeated calls for a host of reforms, from outlawing
chokeholds to partially “defunding” the NYPD and allocating
resources to youth and education programs.
The Rockaway choking on June 21 could have
prompted a new wave of outrage across the city had
the NYPD not stepped in quickly to take preemptive,
internal measures to hold the officer involved accountable.
Shea and the department deserve credit for how
it handled this incident, both internally and publicly.
Some might suggest anyway that the NYPD might
have jumped the gun in suspending the officer pending
the ongoing investigation. But departmental action
must not be conflated with a court of law, where a
suspect is considered innocent until proven guilty.
The video footage provided the ample proof the
NYPD needed to take action. With the way the video
circulated, it would have been inexcusable to have
waited days or even weeks before deciding to suspend
Shea has said the NYPD takes the calls for reform
seriously. Similar swift action in response to future
police brutality allegations is just one way police can
rebuild trust with New Yorkers.
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TIMESLEDGER |14 QNS.COM | JUNE 26-JULY 2, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio (r.) praised Commissioner Dermot Shea and the NYPD for taking swift action against the
police officer who allegedly used a chokehold to subdue an unarmed Black man in Queens on Sunday.
Photo by Mark Hallum
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