Let me begin by commenting on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s speech following the decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner last summer. Clearly, de Blasio is a graduate of the Obama/Holder School of Demagoguery. Like Obama and Holder, de Blasio likes to make every public matter about him and about race. “We are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this date,” de Blasio railed. How does de Blasio know the NYPD wouldn’t have treated Eric Garner in the same manner if he were white? The mayor spoke at length about his son, Dante, and how he had to teach him to protect himself from the police. He effectively tarred and feathered his own police department. It was simultaneously shameful and shameless.
Nevertheless, I am deeply troubled by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. Unlike Michael Brown, Garner did not represent to threat to Officer Pantaleo or any other member of the NYPD attempting to place him into custody. Officer Pantaleo was aware that he was choking Garner (a maneuver prohibited by the NYPD) and yet persisted in doing so. Officer Pantaleo’s negligent behavior was directly responsible for the death of Eric Garner. To not hold him responsible for his actions is a miscarriage of justice.
Of course, it is certainly possible this situation can be remedied by way of federal civil rights charges and/or a civil lawsuit by the Garner family. However, what concerns me is the increasing public perception, right or wrong, that the police are above the law. I fear that it is only a matter of time that someone will try to remedy this point of view by taking the law into their own hands. I’m not talking about the kind of violence we’ve seen in Ferguson. Rather, I believe that someone might make a point of randomly killing police officers as an act of retribution. Such acts are, of course, heinous and will only make matters worse. Chances are the very police officers that would be targeted are likely the ones who are the most exemplary in their conduct. Yet if enough people come to believe that law enforcement can behave with impunity then, sooner or later, someone (and possibly a group of people) will mete out a justice of the most perverse kind.
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