The police unions in the Big Apple have banded together to sue the city over a controversial part of the local chokehold law that makes it illegal for a cop to kneel on someone’s back, The Post has learned.
The lawsuit was filed late Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court and was signed off on by 18 different unions that represent cops with the NYPD, Port Authority, MTA, State Police, courts and city district attorneys’ offices.
The “diaphragm clause” of the law — which allows for DAs to bring a misdemeanor charge if an officer uses any move during an arrest that could limit breathing — “stands to criminalize the lawful use of force, (and) threatens both police and public safety,” the lawsuit reads.
The suit challenges the city law, arguing it should be rolled back since a less restrictive recent state law that only criminalizes chokeholds supersedes the local regulation.
“The Mayor and the City Council took a big gamble with this law. It was pure politics,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the coalition of unions.
The provision was signed into law on July 15 in the wake of George Floyd’s death as part of a package of police reforms.
The law banned the use of chokeholds by cops, but also banned officers from using any technique that could restrict someone’s breathing, such as sitting, kneeling or standing on someone’s chest or back.
The restriction on arresting techniques has led some nearby police agencies to tell their officers not to arrest anyone in New York City.
The Staten Island and Bronx district attorneys both said they would not prosecute cops over “incidental contact” during an arrest but could choose to bring charges if they believed it was on purpose.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance previously raised concerns that the law wouldn’t hold up in court.
Only the Queens DA has used the new state law to prosecute an NYPD cop, but the officer is facing charges over allegedly using an illegal chokehold, not connected to the diaphragm portion of the local law.
When asked about the legal action Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters he had not seen the lawsuit.
The Queens lawmaker who sponsored the bill defended the reform Thursday afternoon, saying it’s “hard to see how the City’s law is inconsistent with or inhibits the state law.”
“Today’s lawsuit challenging the City’s new chokehold law was filed by a rogue’s gallery of police unions who have for decades bitterly fought criminal justice reform, but their legal arguments fall flat and I am more confident than ever that the law will be upheld in its entirety,” Rory Lancman said in a statement.