Eric Garner And Why Bratton And De Blasio Are Wrong On NYPD's Lynch-hold

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What circumstance would justify this?

[Black Star News Editorial]

The chokehold is a banned procedure in the New York Police Department.

It's a lethal and aggressive tactic that kills victims by strangulation -- preventing them from breathing and denying them oxygen to the brain.

It's a very ugly way to die. In New York City the most notable recent victim was Eric Garner who was killed by officer Daniel Pantaleo; a chilling summary execution as the video of the encounter shows that Pantaleo did not appear to want to arrest Garner. He could have easily done so by stepping in front of him, pulling out his weapon and ordering him to submit.

The New York Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide; even then, Pantaleo has yet to be arrested and charged. It was a chilling strangling, with Garner crying desperately "I can't breath, I can't breath..." at least 10 times.

The other well known victim was Anthony Baez, who was killed by another hot-headed member of the NYPD, detective Francis Livotti.

There are countless other victims here in New York, some of whom did not die; others may have died of "undetermined" causes in a familiar parlance.

There are thousands of other Black men and women who were wrongfully killed by strangulation in America during the earlier years.

Yes, the chokehold recalls and evokes lynching.

As New York City Councilmember Robert Cornegy observed: "No chokeholds-- period. This tactic is simply too dangerous to be within the NYPD's arsenal."

"When police power is used to the people's detriment, we must respond accordingly, in this case, by clarifying the law,' Cornegy told The Wall Street Journal. "This bill is as clear and simple as they come..."

Cornegy is a co-sponsor of two bills in the council: one would expose NYPD officers to criminal charges for use of the chokehold; the other bill requires the police to get consent from a person before she or he is subjected to stop-and-frisk.

There is no justification for the use of the chokehold by the NYPD. If the police have sufficient grounds to arrest a suspect, that's precisely the reason why they are armed -- with guns and stun guns. The killing of Garner is clear evidence that had Pantaleo or his partner who was in front of the victim drawn their weapons and ordered him to raise his arms, he would probably be alive today.

Killed for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.

The second bill before the City Council aims to rein in stop-and-frisk.

Officers would still be able to search suspects without their consent if there is an outstanding warrant or if there is probable cause.

This is where body cameras for the police can also be very effective and productive. Cameras would prevent police from manufacturing probable cause, knowing that if it came down to an officer's words and that of a suspect, especially a Black male, the officer always gets the benefit of the doubt.

Body cameras, recording the entire engagement between the officer and the person stopped-and-frisk protects the rights of both parties.

Predictably Police Commissioner Bill Bratton opposes both bills.

"I think it's a totally unnecessary intrusion into the workings of the department, a continuation of the potential to handicap the department's ability to do its work effectively, work that has made this city a much safer place," he said.

This is a clever way of playing the race card. The Commissioner stokes fears of an increase in crime committed by Black males; since they are the ones who are primarily stopped-and-frisked and also strangled by chokeholds.

Bratton knows what he's saying. In 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 59 percent of White voters approved of Stop-and-Frisk while 72 percent of Blacks and 58 percent of Latinos disapproved.

Yet the Center for Constitutional Rights has documented that the NYPD engages in “race-based” stops and that Blacks were “significantly more likely to be stopped than Whites.” Blacks were stopped 84 percent of the time “a far higher percentage than their proportion of the city’s population.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights also found that “only 6 percent of stops result in arrest, an extraordinarily small number given that stops are legally supposed to be based on reasonable, articulable suspicion. The rates of seizure of weapons or contraband are miniscule—.12% of stops yield gun seizures and 1.8% contraband—and are lower than the seizure rates of random stops.”

Other studies also show that stop-and-frisk has not been a factor in fighting or reducing crime.

Commissioner Bratton and his boss Mayor Bill de Blasio both know this.

As candidate, de Blasio promised to change the police culture once elected mayor. He now has "concerns" over the bill seeking consent of the party before a stop-and-frisk search.

Most disturbingly, he says officers should be permitted to use chokeholds in "exceptional" circumstances.  This is a troubling statement that could have far-reaching negative repercussions.

The mayor is sending the wrong message to the rest of the NYPD, since officers can now use chokeholds and claim the mayor approved it for "exceptional" circumstances  -- and, as in most cases, it would translate into the words of an officer versus the silence of a dead victim. 

Eric Garner's videotaped killing was an exceptional instance and the NYPD originally planned to cover up the killing. The first New York Times article about Garner's death on July 17, 2014 was a spin job provided by the NYPD. There was no mention of a chokehold and the death was blamed on Garner's weight and asthmatic condition.

Now, because of de Blasio's position, even Pantaleo, who strangled Garner to death can claim "exceptional" circumstances for justification.

The City Council must vote in favor of the two bills.



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