Just months after the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers, the NYPD’s commissioner has called for a “fundamental shift in the culture of the department.” Commissioner Bill Bratton, the head of the nation’s largest police force, testified during a city council hearing Monday that the NYPD is looking for ways to bolster training in the use of force for patrol officers and that the department is committed to addressing concerns that officers disproportionately stop and use force against Black and Latino residents.
“We are committed to constitutional and respectful policing,” Bratton said during the hearing.
Garner’s chokehold killing by an NYPD officer in mid-July after he was stopped for selling “loosies,”— single, untaxed cigarettes—sparked anger and greater scrutiny of the department’s bolstered broken windows policing strategy, in which officers aggressively attack minor offenses with the aim of suppressing other crimes.
The strategy, a hold-over from the uber-violent New York City of decades past, was invigorated by Commissioner Bill Bratton, who in the 1990s served as commissioner under Mayor Rudy Giulliani and was an original architect of broken windows. Garner’s killing, ruled a homicide by the medical examiner and the police killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 9, has sparked national outrage and a call for greater accountability on the part of police who kill civilians.
Both Garner and Brown were African-American and unarmed at the time of their deaths.
“If you don’t address the race and class issues, which are at the core of the issues between the police and the community, and if you don’t focus on the history there you’re not addressing the fundamental problems,” said Jumaane Williams, a New York City councilman who represents Brooklyn and sits on the council’s public safety committee.