Justice for Eric Garner? Not even close

Article Image

2020 presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio responds to the firing of the NYPD officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner in 2014.

Posted: Aug 19, 2019 10:50 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2019 10:50 PM

The agonizing, unnecessary, five-year wait before the New York Police Department finally fired Daniel Pantaleo -- the cop accused of fatally choking Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold, horrifyingly captured on video in 2014 -- illustrates how hard it will be to truly reform police tactics in New York and elsewhere around the country.

"Today, we have finally seen justice done," Mayor Bill de Blasio said after his police commissioner James P. O'Neill announced at a news conference Monday that he was terminating Pantaleo.

Justice? Not even close.

De Blasio and the NYPD always had the option of initiating disciplinary action against Pantaleo, but failed to do so. Instead, the authorities deferred to a state grand jury (which returned no indictment against Pantaleo) and then waited for the long-shot possibility of a federal Department of Justice civil rights prosecution against Pantaleo, which never happened.

In the meantime, the weeks and months ticked by. Garner's 27-year-old daughter died while waiting for justice, and so did his stepfather. Mayor de Blasio meanwhile remained stubbornly silent about the case, refusing to even express an opinion about whether Pantaleo should remain on the force, for fear of prejudicing the outcome of an internal departmental trial.

The mayor, for whatever reason, claimed to be bound by a legally unnecessary level of restraint that didn't stop other mayors—former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for one-- from speaking out against alleged police misconduct on their watch. De Blasio's allies in the civil rights movement condemned him for the standoffish attitude.

Things appeared to come to a head when civil rights activists disrupted de Blasio's appearance at a recent presidential debate in Detroit by shouting "Fire Pantaleo!" during his opening remarks, before they were escorted out of the arena by local cops.

Commissioner O'Neill, after announcing Pantaleo's firing, acknowledged to reporters that the department's delays -- most of which took place before he was commissioner -- were inexcusable.

"Five years is too long. It's not fair to the family, it's not fair to anybody involved," he said. "It definitely makes me rethink, going forward, how would we proceed with administrative trials."

The bottom line is this: a cop killed an unarmed father using a chokehold that was expressly prohibited by the NYPD 20 years before Garner's death and remains banned, according to the NYPD Patrol Guide. ("Members of the Force SHALL NOT use a chokehold").

But the NYPD has been lax about enforcing its own rule. The New York Times reported that the NYPD's Civilian Complaint Review Board received more than 1,000 complaints about the use of chokeholds between 2009 and 2013, but called for the punishment of only nine officers. "In all but one of the cases decided, the officers were not disciplined, or were given the lightest possible sanction: a review of the rules," the Times reported.

That is the underlying tragedy of Eric Garner. If the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio had taken a serious, forceful and pro-active stance against the illegal use of chokeholds, Pantaleo would have been fired long ago. Instead, the interminable delays suggest an unwillingness to confront a longstanding problem in the NYPD -- delays that may have cost a man his life and that divided a city.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 954230

Reported Deaths: 15474
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1298902003
Lake638781106
Allen54326765
Hamilton44326448
St. Joseph42368592
Elkhart33998491
Vanderburgh30740451
Tippecanoe27012251
Johnson23862420
Hendricks22576343
Porter21943348
Clark17657231
Madison17628387
Vigo16465285
Monroe14637193
LaPorte14493241
Delaware14291225
Howard14058274
Kosciusko11562137
Hancock11022168
Warrick10793179
Bartholomew10730171
Floyd10584209
Wayne10169230
Grant9271206
Morgan9000160
Boone8507112
Dubois7823124
Dearborn776391
Henry7749134
Noble7510101
Marshall7452129
Cass7244118
Lawrence7080154
Shelby6701111
Jackson666386
Gibson6233107
Harrison613287
Huntington608397
Montgomery5903106
DeKalb587591
Knox5589105
Miami554889
Putnam547668
Clinton540566
Whitley534054
Steuben506570
Wabash492792
Jasper487763
Jefferson478992
Ripley463477
Adams448868
Daviess4267109
Scott413065
Clay398358
Greene396892
White396158
Wells393285
Decatur391297
Fayette383380
Posey364341
Jennings358857
Washington336847
LaGrange327375
Spencer323037
Randolph320290
Fountain320156
Sullivan311349
Owen289764
Starke287565
Fulton282356
Orange279259
Jay260038
Perry256353
Carroll247129
Franklin244938
Rush238930
Vermillion237751
Parke222421
Tipton214255
Pike214041
Blackford172934
Pulaski170351
Crawford148519
Newton147046
Benton144716
Brown136646
Martin130618
Switzerland127810
Warren116116
Union99511
Ohio80911
Unassigned0494

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1393696

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1544531574
Cuyahoga1364632341
Hamilton991581326
Montgomery682681161
Summit571661051
Lucas51927869
Butler48223663
Stark42502983
Lorain32263539
Warren30544338
Mahoning27651643
Clermont26123297
Lake24920422
Delaware22656147
Licking20886246
Fairfield20833223
Greene20708275
Trumbull20465516
Medina20236290
Clark18277332
Richland16793236
Portage16501231
Wood16002209
Allen14459261
Miami14091261
Muskingum13019155
Wayne12306244
Columbiana12094242
Tuscarawas11297271
Marion10960150
Pickaway10675129
Scioto10618127
Erie9905171
Ross9685177
Lawrence9005125
Hancock8667143
Ashtabula8533187
Belmont8301188
Geauga8294156
Jefferson7785175
Huron7598131
Union745351
Washington7451126
Athens712965
Sandusky7003135
Darke6906137
Knox6876122
Seneca6551137
Ashland6095115
Auglaize598788
Shelby5867104
Brown579072
Mercer566790
Crawford5603117
Defiance5587101
Madison552571
Highland551782
Fulton544583
Clinton537681
Logan521987
Preble5131111
Putnam4915107
Guernsey489464
Williams471582
Perry466254
Champaign456664
Ottawa444684
Jackson438763
Pike402645
Morrow400551
Coshocton398069
Fayette385253
Adams373675
Hardin369470
Gallia357858
Henry332969
Holmes3328111
Van Wert323271
Hocking312570
Wyandot286858
Carroll268252
Paulding248843
Meigs225542
Monroe193449
Noble174942
Morgan171229
Harrison161941
Vinton143119
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 69°
Angola
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 68°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 69°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 69°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 70°
A weak cold front brings slightly cooler air to the region Tuesday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events