Tag: new york police department

Disciplinary Court Recommends Termination for Officer in Garner Case

Today, in the disciplinary case against New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, an administrative judge found him guilty on one of two counts relating to the death of Eric Garner in 2014. He was found guilty of using a chokehold that was banned by the NYPD at the time of the incident, but he was acquitted of intentionally obstructing Garner’s airway in the process. The verdict came with a recommendation that Pantaleo, who has been working administrative detail during the investigative processes, should be fired.

The now-infamous video taken by a bystander led to two criminal investigations of Pantaleo—one local, one federal—but in neither case were criminal charges brought. With those cases closed, the U.S. Department of Justice announcing just last month that they would not seek an indictment against Pantaleo, the administrative charges were the last open case against the officer.

However, the decision to terminate will ultimately rest with the NYPD commissioner, James O’Neill. The Police Benevolent Association—the police union—is staunchly defending Panteleo and openly threatening internal revolt if the Commissioner follows the judge’s recommendation. From the New York Times report:

On Friday, the city’s largest police union called the verdict “pure political insanity,” and said Mr. O’Neill should reject the judge’s recommendation to fire Officer Pantaleo.

“The only hope for justice now lies with Police Commissioner O’Neill,” said Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association. “He knows that if he affirms this horrendous decision, he will lose his police department.”

This open defiance underscores the political pressures that lead to departments keeping violent and other misbehaving officers on the job.

If you spend time with patrol officers, you’ll often hear of complaints about how people they arrest for violent acts against others are walking out of court without any meaningful consequences. Yet, when one of their own kills a man and failed to provide aid to him as he was dying, their union threatens insubordination and chaos if that officer isn’t protected from consequences. I agree that good officers don’t get enough credit for the service and sacrifices they give to the public, but statements like these are as responsible as any critic or protestor for the sullied reputation of police departments and their officers.

People are fired for mistakes at work all the time, and most people don’t kill anyone while making them. Pantaleo knew he wasn’t supposed to use that chokehold and employing that maneuver led to Eric Garner’s death. If the Commissioner fires Pantaleo, the NYPD rank-and-file should respect that decision.

Police officers need the trust and support of the community to solve crimes and bring criminals to justice. They cannot maintain that trust by neglecting their duty in protest if one of their own is held to account for needlessly killing a man.  

NYPD Program Spied on Muslims for Six Years, Generated No Leads

It turns out that a New York Police Department program that assembled large databases on the ordinary activities of  innocent Muslims, infiltrated student groups, and monitored sermons wasn’t just controversial—it was useless. As the Associated Press reports, the head of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division recently confirmed in a deposition that the Department’s “Demographics Unit”—a delightful euphemism for a team dedicated to spying predicated wholly on ethnicity, language, and religion—turned up no useful leads and gave rise to no terrorism investigations in its six years of operation.

At the risk of being a broken record, this is a reminder of how misleading it can be to discuss these topics under the rubric of “balancing liberty and security.” If government surveillance performs as advertised and yields a substantial security benefit, there’s a debate to be had over how much government intrusion we’re prepared to countenance as the price of that security. But that security benefit has to be proven, not assumed. If it can’t be demonstrated—and a fortiori, if all available evidence demonstrates there is no benefit—then it just should not be a serious question in a decent society whether it’s acceptable for police to keep tabs on all Urdu-speakers of Pakistani origin on the premise (endorsed by this official) that “most” of them are people “of concern” to the government. Just to put that “most” in context: There are some 15 million Pakistani Urdu-speakers worldwide, and about 50,000 legal residents of Pakistani descent in the New York metro area. Treating them all, by default, as potential terrorists who need to be watched would be offensive and ugly even if the policy occasionally yielded a useful piece of information. But to squander scarce law enforcement resources targeting a minority population without any useful results over six years?  How can that be anything but obscene?