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Officer in fatal NY arrest stripped of gun, badge amid protest march

NEW YORK--A New York City police officer involved in the arrest of a man who died in custody after being placed in an apparent chokehold has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on desk duty, police said.

The city's Civilian Complaint Review Board said Saturday it would review more than 1,000 chokehold complaints it has received against officers over the last five years in an attempt to “discern why officers continue to use this forbidden practice.”

At a rally in a rally in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood, prominent civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton said the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner could strain the black community's relationship with the police department. Garner's widow, Esaw, burst into tears at the rally.

“This is going to be a real test to see where policies are in the city now and whether the change that we feel occurred has occurred,” Sharpton said, referring to promises made by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton to improve the relationship between officers and the city's minority communities.

The NYPD has faced criticism and legal challenges over its use of the stop and frisk tactic, which allows officers to stop anyone they suspect is about to commit a crime or has committed a crime. There has also been an outcry over the NPYD's extensive surveillance of Muslims disclosed in stories by The Associated Press.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently defended both the surveillance and stop and frisk as legal and vital public safety tools.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year NYPD veteran, and an officer who has been with the force for four years were both taken off the street after Garner's death on Staten Island, a borough south of Manhattan, police said.

The department would not identify the second officer but said he would retain his gun and badge while on desk duty. The reassignment is effective immediately and will remain in effect while Garner's death is being investigated, police said.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the city's largest police union, called Pantaleo's reassignment “completely unwarranted.” He said it denies Pantaleo the “very benefit of a doubt that has long been part of the social contract that allows police officers to face the risks of this difficult and complex job.”

According to federal court records, three men have sued Pantaleo within the last two years over what they argued were unlawful, racially motivated arrests on Staten Island.

In the first lawsuit, settled by the city in January, two black men in their 40s accused Pantaleo and other officers of arresting them without cause and subjecting them to a “humiliating and unlawful strip search” on a street that involved ordering them to “pull their pants and underwear down, squat and cough.”

The men said they were held overnight on charges that were ultimately dismissed seven months later.

In a second lawsuit, a man accused Pantaleo and other officers of misrepresenting facts in a police report and other documents to substantiate charges that were eventually dismissed.

Pantaleo did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Garner, who has been arrested for selling illegal cigarettes numerous times in recent years, told the officers who confronted him Thursday that he had not done anything wrong, according to the video of the arrest.

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Rev. Al Sharpton, front left, and members of Eric Garner's family march toward the site of his death following a service held in his name at the Mount Sinai Center for Community Enrichment, Saturday, July 19.

(AP)

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