NEW YORK - The City Council is set to cast a landmark vote Thursday to ban the use of chokeholds by the NYPD, but in the days leading up to the vote, Councilman Rory Lancman, the chief sponsor of the bill said administration officials were hard at work trying to insert exceptions into the bill.
Lancman said administration officials have pushed back for days, asking the Council to insert language into the bill that would create an exception and allow an officer to sit, kneel or stand on someone's back or chest under certain circumstances.
"The mayor is not in control of his police department," Lancman told NY1. "And he is terrified of having to sign a bill that will impose criminal penalties on officers who fail to do the things that the NYPD Patrol Guide itself tells them they have to do."
The chokehold ban has languished in the City Council for years.
It was first introduced by Lancman following the death of Eric Garner in 2014, but it failed to ever get the support of the mayor, who at the time was battling the police unions, which said his calls for police reform and the need to improve relationships between police and communities resulted in heightened tensions that led to the killing of two police officers that same year.
Despite wide support in the council, the mayor at the time said he would veto the proposal.
Now, in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minnesota, cities across the country have moved to ban the maneuver.
But here at home, de Blasio has continued to argue an exception should be included to ensure officers can deploy the move in the event of a life or death situation.
"The idea of codifying that I could very much support, so long as there is recognition that sometimes a police officer is in a life and death struggle as part of their work," de Blasio said earlier this month.
"I do not want to see any officer harmed legally if they were simply trying to protect their own life," he added.
As the measure heads for a vote Thursday, it is not clear if de Blasio plans on signing the bill into law.
If the Council passes legislation, the mayor has the option of not signing it. A bill, however, automatically becomes law after a period of 30 days.
"As with every bill, there were discussions between the Administration and Council, but we support the bill," a spokesperson for de Blasio told NY1.
Lancman said recent incidents of police brutality here and in other parts of the country show the practice needs to be banned.
"We don't want to permit an officer to sit, kneel or stand on someone's neck or back anymore than we want to permit them to perform a chokehold," Lancman said.
Beyond banning chokeholds, the council bill will be expanded to include other restraints of a person's diaphragm or his or her ability to breathe. That includes sitting, kneeling or standing on someone's chest or back.
"These are maneuvers and techniques that are inherently dangerous, and which sadly officers have demonstrated time and time again their inability to judge when and if they can deploy those maneuvers safely," Lancman said. "They can't. They shouldn't do it ever, period."