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A LAW in New York City that forbids police from using chokeholds or sitting, kneeling or standing on someone’s torso during an arrest was upheld Monday by the state’s highest court.
The law was passed after the death in May 2020 of George Floyd, whose killer on Monday lost an appeal over his conviction for second-degree murder.
The arrest laws had been challenged by police unions, who said the new rules about compressing a person’s torso were vague and would lead to too much second-guessing of officers involved in physical struggles.
The New York Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the law’s language is clear enough.
“We recognise that police officers are called upon to respond to dangerous and volatile situations requiring real-time assessment of the level of force necessary to safeguard the public and ensure officer safety,” it said.
However, the finding noted that for officers to be found criminally liable under the law, they had to apply the banned force voluntarily, “not accidentally,” and that “such conduct must fall outside the parameters of justifiable use of physical force.”
The court also ruled that it does not conflict with an existing state law banning police chokeholds.
The city’s law was enacted as governments across the country prohibited or severely limited the use of chokeholds or similar restraints by police following Mr Floyd’s death, which occurred as a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
The former officer who was found to have committed second-degree murder of Mr Floyd, Derek Chauvin, failed in a bid to have his 22.5 year sentence overturned.
Mr Chauvin’s lawyers argued that their client was denied a fair trial in 2021 because of pre-trial publicity and concerns for violence in the event of an acquittal.
Mr Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 2020 after Mr Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on his neck for 9.5 minutes on the street outside a convenience store where Mr Floyd is alleged to have attempted to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
A bystander video captured Mr Floyd’s fading cries of “I can’t breathe.”
Mr Floyd’s death sparked a series of protests across the world as black and white communities united to demand action against racist violence, including from the police.
Mr Chauvin is still separately appealing his conviction for the killing of Mr Floyd on federal civil rights charges.
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