A New York City police officer has been suspended without pay after he was allegedly recorded putting his arm around a Black man's neck in what the police commissioner later called a "disturbing apparent chokehold incident."
The incident happened on Sunday on a beach boardwalk in the Rockaway section of Queens. According to CNN, police were responding to a disorderly group in the area.
A video of the incident has been released. Three men are seen on camera talking with police, and sometimes taunting the officers and calling them names. One of the men eventually curses at the officers, saying that he'll "throw sh– in your face."
For more than 10 minutes, the men pace back and forth, shouting at the officers. The officers can be heard imploring them to walk away and enjoy the beach.
After a tense standoff, the officers proceed to move in to arrest the man who they say was acting most aggressively. A scuffle ensues and one of the officers puts his arm around the man's neck as the man lies facedown on the boardwalk.
Someone yells, "stop choking him, bro," on the video. A fellow deputy tapped the officer on the back and gently pulled him off the man. It was a move that was praised by New York City's leadership.
"The officer who intervened to stop his colleague did exactly the right thing," New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. "I commend him. That is what we need to see from all our officers."
After the incident, the man — later identified as Ricky Bellevue — stood up and refused medical treatment at the scene.
Bellevue's attorney, Lori Zeno, told CBS News that he was taken to St. John's Hospital where he was treated for a laceration on his head. He was charged with misdemeanors counts of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental justice, as well as a violation for disorderly conduct. He has not entered a plea.
The NYPD has banned chokeholds for several years.
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After the video was released, the Police Commissioner moved quickly to suspend the officer without pay.
"Accountability in policing is essential," Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement Sunday evening. "After a swift investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, a police officer involved in a disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens has been suspended without pay. While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary."
The officer has not been publicly identified, but Bellevue's attorney says that a suspension isn't nearly enough.
"He's a bad cop and he needs to go," Zeno told CBS. "He needs to get fired. And not only fired, he needs to get prosecuted."
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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