Councilman Pushing Chokehold Bill Open to Negotiation With Mayor

Councilman Rory Lancman. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

Councilman Rory Lancman. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

Councilman Rory Lancman, the primary sponsor of a proposed bill that would make the chokehold maneuver illegal, said he hopes to amend the measure to make it more palatable to Mayor Bill de Blasio—who has vowed to veto the legislation in its current form.

Speaking to host Larry Mendte on 77 WABC Radio, Mr. Lancman noted that Mr. de Blasio said he would block the bill “as written.” The Queens lawmaker argued that the mayor thus had left the door open to signing a revised version of the proposal, and anticipated rounds of what he hoped would be all-inclusive negotiation.

“You have to focus on the words ‘as written.’ We’re at the start of the legislative process, we haven’t had the hearings yet,” said Mr. Lancman. “What will happen is, if the legislation moves forward, we’re going to have conversations with the mayor, we’re going to hear his objections, his ideas, he’ll hear ours. Hopefully we can draw the police unions into a conversation as well. I’m hopeful that when all is said and done, we can send the mayor a bill he feels comfortable signing.”

The grappling maneuver drew national attention last August after a white police officer placed a black Staten Island man, Eric Garner, in a chokehold and he died shortly after. Mr. Lancman noted that Mr. de Blasio has had an ongoing feud with rank-and-file police since the killing, one only exacerbated in December with the murders of two police officers.

“I think the mayor is in a very responsible and measured way, trying to navigate through a very complicated situation. You know we want to support our police, we love our police, they protect us, they keep us safe. We want our citizens to be safe in their interactions with the police,” he said.

Mr. Lancman noted his proposal has the backing of 29 of the Council’s 51 members—enough to pass but five short of the number needed to override a veto. The legislator would not commit to fighting for an override if negotiations fall apart.

“I don’t want to get into threat, counter-threat, with the mayor,” he said. “If the objections he raises are so valid and meritorious, maybe some of the Council members who have signed on to the bill will change their minds.”

Mr. Lancman said he would not indulge in heated rhetoric, noting a Quinnipiac survey released yesterday found that many New Yorkers have a low opinion of Rev. Al Sharpton and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, viewed as the most inflammatory figures in the ongoing debate over policing policy.

“You saw the poll yesterday, where those who have who have engaged in this debate in a vitriolic and hyperbolic way really don’t have the public’s support,” he said. “The public wants us to be responsible, to be measured and to approach these issues with all the passion that we have, but in a very deliberate and thoughtful way.”