We at Detour are the first people that should take the advice to look before you leap to a conclusion. We watched the Eric Garner video several times and voiced our dismay over the grand jury failure to charge Officer Pantaleo. We were told that the death was the result of his illegal choke hold and in any case the coroner ruled it a homicide. A death over a few cigarettes! Of course, we were in good company with virtually everyone on the Left and all sorts of people in the middle and the right echoing the same sentiments. People as diverse as Hillary Clinton, Al Sharpton, Rand Paul and Bill O’Reilly all seemed equally dismayed. Better still we could show how fair and balanced we were after concluding that the Ferguson Grand Jury acted properly, now we could heartily condemn this grand jury. Unfortunately some little bits of knowledge began to sneak in.
We just happened to catch an interview with noted defense attorney, Arthur Adayla, in which he questioned the choke hold idea. He stated that the NYPD does approve of a hold that looks like a seat belt. One arm over the shoulder and the other under the opposite arm. Sure enough another look with his guidance we saw Pantaleo’s left arm over the left shoulder while his right was under the right arm. At least it looked like a seat belt at times. Garner was moving all the time before falling and the hold probably got to his neck at some point. But that might not have been the officer’s intention. We recall that in wrestling choke holds are illegal but occur inadvertently even between two equally sized opponents. In dealing with the huge Garner could we really expect a picture perfect take down? Choke holds are against NYPD policy but not illegal in New Your State. Adayala went on to point out that homicide means a human was involved in the death of another. It may or may not be criminal.
Shaken in what we thought we saw and knew, we started to question our perception of the episode. A man died over few cigarettes. What were the police even bothering him over such a petty offense? The City levies a very high tax on tobacco that invites smuggling and illegal sales. If you want the revenue from the tax you have to enforce the law. In this case a merchant selling legal higher priced cigarettes reported Garner. The police don’t make tax law but are charged with enforcing it.
But such a small crime? New York under Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton adopted what is known as the Broken Windows Theory of policing and that is still the rule there to this day.. We looked to Wikipedia to find what this actually means. First expounded in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George l. Kelling, “The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.” So in New York City you get arrested for relieving yourself on the street, wiping motorists windshields with dirty rags and yes selling small amounts of cigarettes. Does this actually work? If you had been in New york City before it was adopted and compared it to today you probably wouldn’t even ask the question. If you weren’t, just look up the crime statistics. We won’t bore you with them but you will find a dramatic difference. Does anybody want to go back to the bad old days? In any case Officer Pantaleo wasn’t responsible for city policy. Just in enforcing it.
Couldn’t they arrest him without wrestling him down? Why not just use a taser or pepper spray? Garner definitely had a heart condition and severe asthma. Some have said he was a heart attack waiting to happen. Either of these then might’ve provoked a heart attack and Garner might still have died. Would we then ask why with so many police around they didn’t just didn’t wrestle him to the ground. What if they used a billy club? To arrest a resisting person you have to get him in handcuffs. If you find a better way than putting him on the ground please tell us. We couldn’t find one.
Once he was down he was left without attention even though he continued to say he couldn’t breathe. Wasn’t that a crime? Maybe, but was it Officer Pantaleo’s crime? It has been reported that a black female sergeant was actually in charge of the crime scene. We’ve seen this on some blogs but hasn’t been widely reported or confirmed. True or not, it does bring up the question of who was in charge? Was it Officer Pantaleo? If not who? What of the EMTs on the scene? Could’ve he be saved after Pantaleo let loose? What did they do or not do to save a man with a heart attack? We only know they were put on leave.
Does any of this mean that Officer Pantaleo was innocent? Not at all, but it shows that the original narrative we all accepted may have been flawed. We do know the Grand Jury had a lot more access to information. We don’t always agree with Gov.Chris Christy of New Jersey, but he knows a lot more about law enforcement than we do. Commenting on the case, Christy said “As someone who led a prosecuting office for seven years, before I became governor, one of the things I learned is, that you never know all of the things that a grand jury knows unless you’re in that grand jury working with them,” Christie told reporters during a trade mission to Canada, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger. He went on to say, “When I was U.S. Attorney, I used to really, really dislike when politicians who didn’t know a tenth of what the prosecutors and the grand jury knew would second guess their work purely for political reasons or out of ignorance,” he added. “So I’m not going to second-guess that work.” Chastened by his comments, we now think the Ferguson model of releasing the Grand Jury deliberations should be followed so we and others can make judgements on the same information. After all, we’ve been burned before by the original narratives from Tawana Brawely through Duke La Crosse to Ferguson and the University of Virginia.