The public believes that Eric Garner, who was arrested by the New York City Police Department last Thursday, was placed in an illegal choke hold during his arrest, although authorities are denying the allegation. Garner was arrested by the NYPD last Thursday for allegedly selling illegal untaxed cigarettes. During the course of the arrest a choke hold was reportedly used and Garner died shortly thereafter. The incident was videotaped, and he can be heard gasping, repeating over and over that he could not breathe.
Garner’s death has prompted immediate action by the NYPD. Police Commissioner William Bratton has vowed that all 30,000 officers under his command will be retrained in the proper use of force during arrests. Benjamin Tucker, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Training, has been ordered to oversee the retraining. Bratton admitted that the department has let training go by the wayside. He also said that he would be consulting with other police departments, including Los Angeles. The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau and the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office have also launched independent investigations of Garner’s death.
Choke holds have been banned by the NYPD since 1993. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, however, claims that they have received complaints of over 1,000 choke holds during the last five years.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio could not decide whether or not Garner died due to the choke hold by looking at the video, a CBS reporter said. The mayor did caution that nothing could be confirmed until a full investigation was conducted. Authorities are saying that Garner died of a heart attack. Immediately following the death one police officer was asked to surrender his shield and weapon, one officer was given desk duty and four emergency response team members were suspended, pending investigation.
Garner’s funeral service took place last night at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Community leaders, friends and family were there to pay their respects to Garner. Al Sharpton was there and said that the video appeared to show an NYPD officer putting Garner in a choke hold and that if that proves to be the case that officer should be prosecuted severely. Sharpton said that no amount of training could prevent an officer from choking a victim if he lacked morality. Sharpton railed against the four EMTs on the scene, wondering out loud if they knew the meaning of the word emergency.
Some members of the police force and their supporters are expressing anger over what they consider to be a misinterpretation of the Garner video. They are claiming that Garner was not placed in a choke hold and that he died of a heart attack due to the fact that he was asthmatic and extremely overweight. One supporter said that if a person is put in a choke hold, he or she would not be able to talk, so Garner would not have been able to comment that he could not breathe.
Tuesday, the day before the funeral, concerned citizens, family and friends rallied to City Hall demanding to be heard and wanting to know what was being done to address Garner’s death. State Senator Bill Perkins expressed outrage , stating that a murder had been committed by the NYPD. City Councilman, Jumaane Williams, contended that the Daily News article of an internal police report failed to mention the choke hold or the stress Garner was under during his arrest.
Commissioner Bratton met with community leaders on Tuesday and told them that Garner’s death was not a racial issue. The Commissioner also met with local FBI officials, and said that the fallout was just beginning. Bratton said that he expected to see a civil suit and a civil rights violation on the horizon. The latest autopsy report could not confirm whether or not Garner died of due to choke hold, and further tests will have to be conducted.
By Dennis De Rose