In this country where we strive for equality, it appears that police officers are above the law. A chokehold that was banned in 1993 by the NYPD was used by New York Police Officer Pantaleo against an unarmed man who was allegedly selling illegal cigarettes. Let’s assume that Eric Garner was selling cigarettes illegally and not paying taxes to the state of New York. Let’s even assume he had a long record. Nothing justifies his death at the hands of the officers assigned to serve and protect us for a few dollars owed to the state of New York.
Just watch this video and ask yourself, how is it possible that District Attorney Donovan was unable to obtain an indictment? How is it possible that he wasn’t able to get 12 grand jurors to vote to indict from a panel of 23 jurors where the standard is only more likely than not.
There was no justification for using excessive force. Even if Garner was unwilling to let the officers handcuff him, it does not justify choking him to death. There were four officers on top of him, and Garner pled that he could not breathe. Four police officers against a man who is not fighting back. Usually, I am reluctant to weigh in without hearing all of the evidence, but the video alone is sufficient to indict the police. Officer Pantaleo knew that choking another person could be dangerous to human life. He didn’t act out of self-defense and Garner died as result of his actions. That’s manslaughter.
When local prosecutors fail to curb police brutality, the federal authorities need to step in. Instead of paying for body cameras, I would suggest that President Obama provide the Department of Justice with greater funds to investigate and prosecute these types of cases. Excessive force by police officer undermines faith in our criminal justice system.
An article I wrote a decade ago seems just as pertinent now as it did then.
See also today’s post at thinkprogress.org: How did the police kill a man on tape and get away with it?