August 12, 2019
While the city, if not the nation, awaits NYPD Commissioner Jim O’Neill’s decision whether to fire police officer Daniel Pantaleo, the anti-police narrative of the past five years continues unabated.
Let’s begin with Candace McCoy, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College and the CUNY Graduate Center, who wrote in the Daily News that Pantaleo should be fired for using a department-banned chokehold on Eric Garner.
McCoy adds that Pantaleo and other officers who aided in Garner’s arrest “were doing the job their bosses told them to do,” and that top NYPD brass chose “neighborhoods in which a majority of residents were people of color, encouraging arrests of people committing petty crimes on the discredited and disproven theory that this would prevent more serious crimes.”
Garner, who was arrested for selling loosie cigarettes, was sometimes “unruly,“ she writes, “along with others in the neighborhood. … Sometimes they interfered with shop owners’ commerce.” She calls this “the classic situation to which police should apply neighborhood problem-solving strategies, not arrests.”
Were that policing was so simple.
First, it’s unclear whether Pantaleo’s chokehold was deliberate or inadvertent, which was why the Department of Justice did not indict him. A state grand jury also chose not to indict him.
Second, neighborhood problem-solving strategies, or “neighborhood policing,” as Mayor de Blasio calls it, has not as yet solved anything, so far as we know. To the contrary, one can only wonder whether the easing of enforcement — “restraint” and “de-escalation” as is it called nowadays at the Police Academy — was related to the recent dousing of cops with buckets of water.
Third, some history. In 1994 with homicides over 2000, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani began what McCoy calls the “disproven theory” of arresting people for minor crimes. Like it or not, this policy dramatically reduced crime. The declines have continued with every mayor and police commissioner since, with each of them claiming credit. Ray Kelly cited his Stop and Frisk policy, which in his 12 years as police commissioner, resulted in 5 million stops, virtually all of young black and Hispanic males, virtually none of whom had committed a crime. When Kelly, under pressure, dramatically reduced the number of stops, crime continued to fall. Mayor de Blasio attributes the city’s record low crime rate to his policy of “neighborhood policing.”
Meanwhile the national media is observing the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which together with Garner’s death set off the anti-police narrative that police — white officers in particular — are killing unarmed black men willy-nilly. A New York Times story Friday began: “David Morrison carries the scars of Ferguson’s upheaval. A veteran protestor, he has fled gunshots and tear gas, marched, waved signs and played dead on the asphalt in years of activism that unspooled after a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.”
That’s selective reporting. A fairer story might have included the following phrase at the end of that sentence: “who had attempted to take the officer’s weapon.”
That’s why state prosecutors and the Justice Department did not indict the officer, Darren Wilson. According to the Justice Department’s report on Brown’s death, forensic evidence and what it called “credible witnesses” supported Wilson’s account — that Brown had tried to take his weapon.
In her Daily News article, McCoy is also selective in what she includes and omits. She does not mention that Garner stood 6-4, weighed nearly 400 pounds, and had 29 priors — and that he resisted arrest, telling cops, “This stops now.” Of course, his resistance is in no way comparable to Brown’s attempting to take Wilson’s weapon. Nor does it justify Garner’s death, other than to note that, besides being obese, Garner suffered from heart disease and asthma, another fact McCoy fails to mention.