The Day After the Verdict, Round 2: Yup, Still a Joke

Maybe this time, I thought before yesterday’s grand jury decision was announced.

Because Daniel Pantoleo, the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death on July 17, has a history of alleged race-related misconduct.

Maybe this time.

Because the NYPD forbids its members from using chokeholds — a rule that went into effect 21 years ago, long before Pantoleo was ever a cop.

Maybe this time.

Because the New York City medical coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide.

Maybe this time.

Because the entire incident was filmed.  Because you can see in the tape, as the New York Times stated, that Garner was “not acting belligerently, posed no risk of flight, brandished no weapon and was heavily outnumbered.”  Because you can hear him say “I can’t breathe” 11 times before he dies.  Eleven.  Times.

Maybe this time.

But then the news broke.

As I tried to make sense of the decision, stunned and sad and outraged (a luxury, I recognize), I also felt foolish for thinking that the outcome might be different this time.

Because after all, the grand jury proceedings took place in Staten Island, a borough that’s long been sympathetic to police officers, in large part because so many of them live there.

Because we don’t know what charges, if any, the prosecutor recommended to the grand jury — though we do know that prosecutors are generally reluctant to put police officers on trial, perhaps because they work so closely together and don’t want to risk hurting those relationships.

Because time and time again, grand juries decline to bring charges against police officers who shoot unarmed civilians.

And given everything that this case had going for it — the officer’s history, his use of a prohibited chokehold, the medical examiner’s ruling, the tape (the TAPE!) — I had to face some deeply unpleasant realities:

That even though police body cameras are a good first step (see how public opinion largely favored an indictment in this case, as opposed to the Darren Wilson case, which had no tape and conflicting eyewitness testimony), maybe they won’t fix the problem.

That maybe our society isn’t interested in holding police officers accountable for killing unarmed black civilians, and they’ll continue to do so with impunity.

That maybe our criminal justice system is even more of a joke than I thought it was last week.

Something has to change.

91 thoughts on “The Day After the Verdict, Round 2: Yup, Still a Joke

  1. Something has to change.
    I believe it will. There will be a tipping point. It may take too long. It may be ignited by anger. But there will be a tipping point when those who exercise this sort of power are forced to realise that they are there to represent the public, to bring justice and fairness. And that they must do exactly that.
    Somehow though, I dont think that tipping point will be a pleasant thing at all.

  2. Won’t know until it’s tried. Might as well throw some drug war money at cameras. Though if i was a cop I wouldn’t want my boss or anyone watching me all day. Nobody deserves to be under the gun for every screw they make or look like they’re making. I hope police body cams become a thing but i also hope citizens are responsible with the leverage that’ll give them over cops.

  3. There’s something wrong about all of this. I generally try to stay away from controversial race and ethnicity news but this case had the most compelling evidence I’ve seen to take this case, Sad day for NYC and America! Thanks for bringing this topic to my attention.

  4. for all of those police officers out there, I am horrified that people like Daniel Pantoleo are being show as examples of who you are.

    every example of decent people doing their job to serve and protect the public are thrown aside every time this event is played.

    things like Daniel Pantoleo are reinforcing the belief that the police force is naught but a gang of criminals. By refusing to prosecute these criminals, the powers to be are destroying the security that the police are supposed to be providing

  5. “I also felt foolish for thinking that the outcome might be different this time.”

    A number of people thought this. You imagined with the evidence and information shared by the coroner’s office, the outcome would be different. But I remember this is not the reality that we live in.

    This is not Black vs Everyone. This is a power system vs basic human decency. All cops are not represented by these individuals, but when good cops remain silent when these actions continue, people will view them as guilty by association.

    Imagine if my relative terrorized my neighbors, and I was completely aware of his/her actions. Now imagine I remained silent during and after the actions of my relative. Why would anyone feel I am any different? At the very least, I am not condemning the relative’s behavior.

    This is the society people are familiar with, and one I believe will not change until they begin making these individuals accountable. Until then, the blue wall of silence speaks volumes. Good cops must separate themselves from these actions

  6. The death of this innocent man; watching him die, listening to him say, “I can’t breathe” while he was literally being taken down by several police officers as if he had just shown himself to be in a violent, dangerous temper….simply makes me sick to my stomach! I hurt for him, the life lost, the future lost, or I should say TAKEN AWAY! MY thoughts & prayers are with his family & friends!
    You know what is so crazy? I don’t even know that man’s name! I was so shocked & felt so hurt & just sorry for him that I honestly don’t remember hearing his name; I know it was said, but I didn’t hear it through the fog! It really doesn’t matter though, I would like to know his name, but it won’t change how I feel; nothing they can tell me will be able to change the fact that this man should not have died! He was wrongfully killed! He was unnecessarily attacked by several police officers & killed unnecessarily!
    We as a people must not just sit back & allow this to happen to anyone else!! We also need to see to it that the world knows that the police officer should face charges for his crime in killing that man! We must stand up, black, white, red, yellow, we must stand together as one people UNITED!
    I am a white/Cherokee Indian lady from Lauderdale, Mississippi! Yes, I am a Southern girl to the bone, but I AM NOT RACIST, I love all people!!! We don’t behave like this here in my hometown, no, not even here in the Deep South!
    Come on America, isn’t it about time to change?
    Rest in peace brother!

  7. Pingback: Do Not Be Numb, Do Not Despair | Wendyah

  8. What incentive do they have to change a system they benefit from? Oh no, people are going to quietly protest with some signs or by laying down in a train station!! Oh the humanity!!

    As much as I can see the negative side of the reactions in Ferguson, there will be no change until those style of riots go nationwide. I thought this case would be a tipping point, but it wasn’t. Everyone grabbed their signs, walked down the streets, then quietly went home because their duty was done – and things are no different than they were. Eric Garner and Mike Brown will continue to happen over and over.

  9. The NYC protest after the announcement didn’t manage to stop the Christmas tree lighting or Mariah Carey’s performance…
    So there I am… news clips of Garner being choked… Mariah Carey’s juicy high notes and her cleavage… Garner being choked… a beautiful star at the top of the tree… Garner being choked… a crowd of eager shoppers… Garner being choked… in an ILLEGAL choke hold…
    Now what are his six kids gonna ever do for another Christmas?

    Thanks for writing the article… We need a change indeed.

  10. You run into the same problem with every cross-section of society. The real problem is how successful certain instigators have been at playing the “us vs. them” song to the masses they influence. There is no “them” – it is all “us.”

  11. Thanks– will get me reading more about this case.
    Pretty shocking when the incident, the evidence was videotaped. What will it take for people to believe in truth, then?

  12. If it was a political move to dismiss the charges against this cop, it doesn’t sound like a very smart one. The criminal justice system is already at the edge of credibility, and every one of these cases strains this further. As a decent person I do not stand for this. Sadly, I am not a cop (only for rent), so I can’t speak for them, though I wish some cops would publicly distance themselves from this officer Pantoleo. I would like to continue believing that they are mostly decent human beings.

  13. It’s not a joke, it’s working exactly the way it’s meant to…for whom it is meant to protect and serve. But your post jerks people awake, which is good – maybe they’ll stay awake long enough this time to realise that they, white Americans, are the only ones who can stop this happening. Update: another unarmed black man shot dead by police in Arizona on Wednesday. It never stops.

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  15. Reblogged this on dredindu's Blog and commented:
    New York police department has pushed for the use of body cameras on police officers, but would that be the solution to police brutality ? Would it make police officers stop the use of force when it comes to people of colour?

  16. I was deeply saddened by this news. You’d think this was clear cut and the police officer was certainly in the wrong. I don’t trust the judicial system or police officers anymore.

  17. I do think that most cops are decent, but many get desensitized and hardened by the violence and idiocy they deal with. That being said, I thought this was a much more egregious incident than Ferguson. The man was brought down using a technique banned years ago, and he wasn’t even doing anything particularly dangerous. The good news is that this isn’t over yet, as a Justice Department investigation is ongoing. Also, the news seemed to gloss over the fact that South Carolina is holding an officer accountable for killing a man.

    Too many people and animals have been killed by excessive force used by police. However, I have a feeling that change, it is a-coming!

  18. Full disclosure…. I’m a retired police officer, (PA State Trooper)…..Currently I’m a school police officer.

    I do not wish in any way to minimize, what it is you feel about how the police handle things in your community, because I have no idea how that is.

    I only offer up my experience at what is and is not justified, by law.

    When looking at this incident and Ferguson as well(maybe EVEN Cleveland ) in light of the law. The responsibilities and duties of police to that law, AND the responibilities of citizens to them as well, PERHAPS you can see the problem here in a different light.

    So please forgive me if this is hard to hear, but this is the point of view in the system we all live under.

    These cases specifically…… I’m not discussing any others.

    Unfortunately…. This was a case of homicide, and the grand jury said it was justifiable. So no indictments.

    How did this happen?

    This tragic death ….and it was tragic……. Didn’t have to happen… .

    But this death (justifiable homicide) was found that way and not homicide because……

    1.) the police had justification to arrest Mr. Garner.

    2.) Mr. Garner resisted a calm attempt to put handcuffs on him, and that with his demonstrative attitude throughout the interview being conducted by the officer, made it aparent he wouldn’t be going….with them as they wanted him to.

    3.) So they physically had to apply cuffs.

    Not an easy thing to do to a 400lb man who doesn’t wish to have that done.

    4.) He had a heart attack.

    That’s the important factors, because Mr Garner died of a heart attack

    Yes the choke hold may be against NYPD policy…. ..

    BUT it didn’t kill him and it wasn’t against the law…..

    Unless the officer actually strangled him to death. Which he didn’t.

    According to the video it shows the officer releasing the choke hold within 1 second of Mr Garner saying, “I can’t breathe.”

    Unfortunately Mr. Garner was in poor Cardiac condition.

    The whole process of the arrest and his anger at it could have been a factor in the heart attack. He could have had one regardless, even if he went with the police without resisting.

    If that happened, we still might be having this conversation.. …..but there wouldn’t be the damning video.

    The video.

    It shows exactly what a person familiar with forceful arrests would expect.

    They are ugly.. …ugly events.

    But that event was initiated by Mr Garner.. ….when he refused to be handcuffed.

    Police have their responibilities and so do citizens.

    Police have a right to make a lawful arrest and a duty to do so.

    Citizens have a duty to submit to that authority, if it is lawful.

    If the police were justified in making the arrest, then the fact that Mr Garner died from a heart attack during it IS NOT…. ….Murder.

    It’s Justifiable Homicide.

    Because there would have been no physical, violent handcuffing, EXCEPT Mr Garner resisted.

    If this had been a white victim, the jury would have ruled the same way.

    But regardless of what the video APPEARS TO SHOW, it actually shows… .

    A lawful arrest being made…. When ALL THE SURROUNDING facts….. Criteria for lawful arrests are present..

    and I will have to assume…. …because I’m not certain of all the facts.

    But that’s how this can happen. And Most likely did.

    Here’s my concern.

    If the hate and distrust of the police continues in these communities, and people continue to resist, police are going to have to use force to affect arrests.

    When this happens the will be more videos that show more lawful arrests and God forbid, but more than likely more unfortunate deaths.

    It is a self fulfilling prophecy.

    So….. I’m no fan of Al Sharpton, or the media or the social media.. ….because of their presentation of a one sided perception. Which only insights anger.

    There are two perceptions,… …and even following these decisions the other perception is ignored. So rage and anger continue to build.

    Truly this is not just a racial issue. It is much more complex than that. It is economic/societal/cultural/and racial.

    If this is going to be all put on the police….. If we make them the scapegoat for what ails us….. Nothing is going to change.

    God bless.

  19. Great writing.
    The incident is not in the news in Asia but you make a really compelling point. Too often have we heard the unexpected and unforgivable – that justice is not served where justice ought to reign. If only the tipping point of the masses comes sooner all over the world so that we can have a social revolution for justice … for peace, for sharing and caring.
    If we all throw our weight behind these causes maybe the see saw will tilt sooner rather than later.. ….

  20. The news broke my heart, too. So confounding and horrible. It just truly makes NO sense. Thanks for your words, however, because it feels a bit less horrific to know there are many of us out there that feel this way.

  21. Reblogged this on HEY GIRL HEY!!! and commented:
    This happened roughly three days ago. This article is a great representation of some of the thoughts playinging through my mind. I just pray enough of us are willing to organize and unify for change. Peace and Blessings

  22. Yes something has to change. NYC is filled with racism. I speak from experience with the NYPD. I lived NYC for a large part of my life. there are good cops on the force. But there are so many bad cops, it’s hard to appreciate the good cops. The city is known for it’s racist attitude. I have been called the N word for just looking at them.

  23. Very nice! It’s a sad state of things! One of the main things that WE can do is show EVERYBODY that WE are better than this and lead by example!

  24. It’s likely the next coming change will be some form of a special prosecutor addressing a grand jury regarding police conduct rather than a local prosecutor who has close associations with the police. But any changes will likely take a while because we are a nation of laws and laws need to be legislated and it never happens overnight. So I propose this… and this can work right away. If a cop stops you don’t back talk, don’t street debate them about being hassled, don’t grab for their gun, don’t shoplift, don’t sell cigarettes illegally (in fact, as strange and radical as this concept may sound… don’t do ANYTHING illegal to draw attention your way) and just plain don’t resist them or give them any reason to get physical with you. That amount of caution (and true common sense) might just do a world of good in defending yourself from any possible police brutality. Yeah, yeah, I know… it’s no fun not raising a ruckus

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  26. damn good blog.
    the american judicial and police institutions are as close as it to comes to jokes
    the problem with the police service is that members of the service are effectively invincible-they are tried in a police court by their own co workers. The chances of them being convicted are close to zero. a good place to start would be to create a police court totally independent of the service, so that these people get tried fairly.

  27. You are right not all police are bad people. The few bad ones make it hard for those trying to do their jobs. But I will say this black people bot trusting the police didn’t come from word of mouth it came from experience. I think all of this can be avoided if there was another policy maker over the police and prosecuting attorney that did merit anything from either side. Someone that could balance things out. Right it seems like it’s us against them. At the end if the day that will not have a happy ending

  28. As it has ever been foxes are watching the hen house, talk of reconciliation and equity is a short-
    term solution to what those in power hope will be reconciled by the passage of time and the fragility of memory. In truth things have gotten steadily worse. Equity finally emerges in the form that all those lacking the wealth to afford sufficient representation for equity, whatever color or race will be disenfranchised equally while all those of sufficient wealth will celebrate safety and equality equally. The answer lies not in protests, nor in votes, but rather in the nobility and uncorruptible goodness of men like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who gave their lives without complaint to exemplify the truth that only goodness and the persistence of faithare capable of contending with evil and overcoming it. When each of us begins to refuse to accept compromise in order to avoid financial risk or social condemnation then and only then can we expect real change.

  29. I’m from Compton. America is just waking up to facts that black people have had to live with for centuries. We expected ALL these cops to walk. But you are right. Something has to change.

  30. I appreciate your post. My reaction was very similar. But, as Ta-Nehisi Coates said, these cases do not show that the criminal justice system is broken. In fact, it is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Our police are part of general American society, which continues to view and portray black men as dangerous criminals. With that lens as our starting point, of course the white police who kill unarmed black men are not prosecuted – how could the officers have known that those particular black men did not pose a threat when all of our subconscious and conscious biases tell us that black men are always dangerous?

  31. It is such a tragedy that this young boy had to die. For no reason that I can see. It was apparent he was saying he could’t breathe and at that point something should have been done to allow this boy to breathe. I see this as rage from the officer to ignore his pleas to breathe. We cannot allow this system to treat anyone this way, white or black it does not matter. This is clear homicide and the officer should be punished the same way as we would be.

  32. I, too, have thought, maybe this time. Several decades have past since the first time. And im not sure if there is progress. Its exhausting. But I cant quit hoping and working on the parts i can control in my own little space. Maybe next time

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