Following the lack of indictment of Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a grand jury declined to indict the NYPD police officer who allegedly killed Eric Garner, who was allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, through a choke-hold. His death had been ruled as homicide by the medical examiner, with his "health problems, including asthma and obesity" as "contributing factors" (Reuters). Though the chokehold is prohibited by New York police regulations, there is "no explicit law prohibiting chokeholds" (Reuters).
Though protests have predictably erupted following news that the jury had not returned an indictment, unlike those of Ferguson, protests in New York have been generally more civil, with approximately 30 arrests at the time of publication of this post with no significant vandalism of property (Reuters). While the less violent nature of these protests is a positive difference from the events of Ferguson, the tension between minority races and law enforcement continues to simmer. Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, desegregation of schools following the Brown v. Board decision, and the many other steps the country has taken to promote the equality of minority races, racial tensions still remain to this day, highlighted through recent current events, and thus, there is much work still to be done to promote peace and harmony between different races.
Some questions for discussion:
1) Do you agree with the grand jury's decision not to indict Eric Garner? Why?
2) Given the inflamed tension between law enforcement and minority groups, what actions can local, state, and federal government take to ease this tension, and prevent scenarios like this from occurring in the future?
3) At what point does police force become excessive? Given the rarity of indictments of police officers, should laws governing police force be tightened to discourage police brutality? If so, how so? If not, why not?