I have been following the “trial” on NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo and I am surprised, shocked, disgusted and (sadly) outraged that justice for the death of Eric Garner has yet to be attained. As I think of the trauma Eric’s mother Gwen Carr must continue to endure, I am further enraged by the lack of accountability on behalf of the NYPD brass and Mayor de Blasio.
Unfortunately, many New Yorkers watched the video of Officer Pantaleo placing Eric Garner in a non-sanctioned chokehold. This procedure is not allowed by the NYPD, it was taped on three different cellphone cameras by bystanders in the Staten Island community, and yet Officer Pantaleo has continued to serve as a NYC police officer and collect a paycheck paid for by the citizens of New York. What further infuriates me is the idea that cameras will serve as a miracle pill and will solve our problems and provide clear-cut solutions to centuries long inequities and bad behavior. Unfortunately, we have seen evidence on camera (cellphone and body) and yet no conclusive evidence has been drawn in a court of law and bad actors employed by the state continue to walk freely.
To add insult to injury, Officer Pantaleo’s “trial” has been postponed until June because Officer Pantaleo’s lawyers would like an expert to fly in from Missouri to testify. The courts are quite accommodating to Officer Pantaleo and his needs. What about the needs of Mrs. Carr who must hear callous statements made by uniformed police officers directed at her late son? She must endure sitting in a courtroom watching men—who have taken an oath to protect and serve all in their community—completely disregard the will of law, and sanctity of life. Men who refuse to see certain communities as worthy of respect or protection.
NYC Police Commissioner James O’Neill will make the final decision on Officer Pantaleo’s fate. However, by this process, his decision does not need to be explained to the citizens of New York City and can/will most likely be handled internally. How is that for democracy?
As de Blasio travels the country touting his record as presiding over the safest big city in America, I do hope voters ask him just exactly who is safe in his big city? As Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams thinks about making a play for 2021, I hope voters ask him about his allegiance to the NYPD as well as his relationship to PBA President Pat Lynch. This is the same Pat Lynch who does not believe disciplinary action should be taken and that Officer Pantaleo acted properly in his encounter with Eric Garner.
All politics is connected and we must make sure our protest politics align with our electoral politics as well.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the new podcast FAQ-NYC.