Daniel Pantaleo, who strangled Garner to death from behind. Where is the justice?
Govenor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York’s leading elected leaders must get on with the mission of pushing for special prosecutors to handle cases where police officers kill unarmed civilians.
This issue must be a priority now, not a recurring demand that comes whenever there is a brutal police killing such as the strangulation of Eric Garner by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo; often, the issue then dies when an incident fades and the media move on to different stories.
Thankfully, partly due to the ongoing mass protests against police brutality, and the calls for reforms in the criminal justice system, more states are now considering laws that would indeed empower special prosecutors to handle cases involving police killings of unarmed civilians.
As The Wall Street Journal reports today, “Lawmakers in some states are moving to make investigations of police-involved killings more independent by requiring outside review or special prosecutors in such cases. The change follows nationwide protests after grand juries failed to indict officers in the 2014 deaths of two unarmed black men Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner on Staten Island, N.Y. In California and New Jersey, proposals seek to emulate a first-of-its kind law that went into effect last year in Wisconsin, where independent probes of officer-involved fatalities are required. In New York, the state attorney general has proposed reviewing police killings, while a Missouri bill would require police and prosecutors to designate outside investigators and prosecutors in such cases.”
Here in New York City, Pantaleo wasn’t indicted even with the video evidence showing how he killed unarmed Eric Garner with the banned chokehold lock, ignoring the victims cries, made 11 times, that he couldn’t breathe.
Similarly, in Ferguson, MO., egregious misconduct by the prosecution –for example, falsely informing the grand jury members that Darren Wilson was legally within his right to shoot Michael Brown because he had fled their initial interaction– and media demonization of the victim including by The New York Times allowed the officer who killed the unarmed teen not to be indicted.
District attorneys and the police have a spousal relationship. That’s why special prosecutors must always handle cases of police killings of unarmed civilians.
“Our past experience has led us to believe that independent prosecutors are best suited to investigate and prosecute allegations of police brutality and misconduct,” says Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network.
The noted New York attorney, Ron Kuby, a former law partner of the late William Kunstler notes: “It is ridiculous to think that local prosecutors, who depend upon the police every day, can or will adequately investigate claims of police brutality. Year after year, and decade after decade, we have seen otherwise competent prosecutors suddenly find some reason to avoid indicting brutal cops. So the time is now. In New York state governor Cuomo should grant the powers attorney general Eric Schneiderman needs to handle cases involving police killings of unarmed civilians, as the AG requested in a letter to the governor. “
New York City mayor de Blasio must also push Cuomo on this subject. Both he and the governor must not be intimidated by the childish behavior of some officers who have been turning their backs on the mayor.
They also shouldn’t be distracted by ugly rhetoric from police union leaders like Patrick Lynch –he lauded Pantaleo’s chokehold on Garner– who said the blood of officers Ramos and Liu was in de Blasio’s hands after they were murdered by the mentally unstable gunman.
Let’s not wait for the next catastrophe on the streets. Gov. Cuomo must do the right thing.