Monday, July 21, 2014

Police Choke Hold

A New Yorker recently died after being put in a choke hold by a NYPD officer.  Eric Garner is seen on a video taken by someone with a cellphone complaining to police that he is always being targeted.  Obviously frustrated, he lifted his hand in a gesture showing that he "had enough."

However, one shorter office tried to cuff him while another one almost as tall as Garner, grabbed Garner by the neck in a choke hold and slammed him down.  Other officers then jumped in to hold Garner down.  One of them even pressed his head into the pavement.  Eric Garner did nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, he was being a good Samaritan by breaking up a fight on the sidewalk.

Garner is a big man weighing over 350 lbs.  He had asthma and complained that he could not breathe. Despite this cry, the NYPD on the scene continued to hold him down. EMT workers who arrived on the scene did not even perform CPR or provided any other medical assistance.  Eric Garner was later pronounced dead.  Garner was arrested in the past for petty crimes such as possession of drugs and selling bootleg cigarettes.  He even filed a lawsuit against the police citing that he was the target or harassment by cops who "took away his manhood" by humiliating him constantly.  The suit was dropped because of problems with the addressed he used to file the lawsuit.

The news is tragic indeed. It is obvious that the NYPD were constantly harassing this guy if he had to file a lawsuit.  Unfortunately, it was thrown out and had it not been so, he probably would have been alive today.  The use of force by the NYPD in the video is unacceptable. Chokeholds are illegal. They have been illegal since 1994 when an NYPD officer killed Anthony Baez using the same hold.  I have always had issue with the "use of force" by police. They can literally do anything to someone from punching, stomping, slapping, kneeing, slamming etc and most of the time not get punished for this abuse. Moreover, anyone who defends him/herself against a cop is charged with a felony.  It is totally unfair. If a person is being attacked by the police even during an arrest and fears for his life, he/she should be allowed to use force as well in order to prevent his/her own death.

The officer who put him in a choke hold, 8 year veteran Officer Daniel Pantaleo, was stripped of his gun and badge and put on desk work. Paramedics who did not attend to Garner were also suspended. The cause of Garner's death is inconclusive, but officers at the scene stated he seemed to be having a heart attack. Garner most likely had an asthma attack and suffocated to death; had a heart attack, or had an asthma attack that triggered a heart attack.

It is sad to hear that we lost another life at the hands of those who are there to "Serve and Protect." However, the current Police Commissioner of New York, William J. Bratton has ordered that all NYPD officers be retrained.  He also wants to see for himself how officers are trained. This is good news and I applaud him for taking this step instead of trying to sugar coat it as "police work" that was justified.  Moreover, I applaud Mayor De Blasio for postponing his vacation to attend to this tragedy.

Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Eric Garner, for his loved ones and for change in the NYPD's culture of aggression and abuse.


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