NYPD Chokehold Tragedy: Police–Community Collaboration

Each day there are countless acts of courtesy, respect, and protection of New Yorkers and visitors performed by dedicated NYPD officers.

New York is the greatest city in the world because of the NYPD’s dedication, commitment, and professionalism to protect and serve.

Nevertheless, the frailties of the human condition are bound to at times come into play through tragedies and incidents contradictory to ethical behavior.

When these deficiencies and controversies arise, it is a clarion call for transparent leadership, integrity, and the moral courage to do what is right.

Chokehold Tragedy

Currently, the NYPD is in the process of profound soul-searching, reform, and renewal.

On July 17 the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner from a police chokehold—a violation of NYPD policy—placed police–community relations into the national spotlight.

In the videotape of the incident, Garner can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Emotions were further exacerbated on Aug. 2 when the city medical examiner ruled the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner a homicide, saying the chokehold killed him.

The medical examiner stressed that the compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner’s prone position while being restrained by police, caused his death.

The emotional repercussions from his death have led to examination of police–community issues including:

  • broken windows policing
  • use of force
  • internal affairs
  • district attorney and federal investigations
  • race and class
  • civil rights
  • law enforcement training/certifications
  • crime prevention
  • police accountability, tactics, morale
  • Stop and Frisk
  • principles of effective policing
  • mayoral commitment and leadership 

Peelian Policing Principles

Law enforcement professionals refer to the Nine Peelian Principles for the foundation of an ethical police force. These were developed by Sir Robert Peel (1788–1850), whose visionary philosophy underscores trust, respect, and approval of the public toward the police. 

This police–public cooperation is diametrically opposed to the tactics of fear, intimidation, and distrust of the law-abiding public. 

Although all nine principles are essential to this police–public cooperation, these four now have a particular relevance:

• Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
• Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.
• Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police.
• Police should always direct their actions strictly toward their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

NYPD Mission

Peelian principles perfectly uphold the NYPD mission statement:

“The MISSION of the New York City Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in our city by working in partnership with the community and in accordance with constitutional rights to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment.”

As detailed by Commissioner Bratton on his NYPD blog, Sir Robert Peel is his longtime hero because of his innate cutting-edge grasp of the complex police–public interplay that is the heart of policing in a free society. 

Bratton’s attitude, complemented by his admirable public service accomplishments and stellar crime-reduction credentials make him the right person at the right time for the NYPD and the people of New York.

Collaborative Policing

The NYPD and law enforcement professionals nationwide must be completely dedicated to enhancing police–community collaboration. 

The recent tragedy on Staten Island is the opportunity for the NYPD to shine in reawakening the nation through ethical integrity forged through community partnerships built on trust with the law-abiding public.

This will require leadership, vigilance, collaboration, and especially a moral courage that honors the words on every NYPD vehicle—courtesy, professionalism, and respect.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see www.vincentbove.com