Wednesday, December 3, 2014

New York Police Officer Involved in Eric Garner Death Not Indicted

(For a video of the death of Eric Garner, click here)

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?


David Diba Six said...

In all honesty what had just happened is an outrage,watching the video one can clearly see that he was a non-violent man, who wanted to simply talk to the officers. When they decided to arrest him they never even gave him a chance for a peaceful arrest, rather they went straight to choking the man and the worst part they didn't stop after he said he couldn't breathe three times. That became murder the second the person informed the officers that he couldn't breathe and after he showed no physical retaliation. That was clearly first degree murder, and at the bare minimum it was man slaughter. This further creating the soon to be fact that police officers get double standards under the law.

Given the current situation of the nation after events such as Ferguson,
I believe it would be wise to force the police officer to resign and with out pension, just as the police officer in Ferguson was forced to do.
however the police stations need to do more than that, they need to use tactics to subdue people that doesn't land them in a grave. It seems that it should be common sense that choking or shooting somebody should not be the first instinct. But I think most importantly these officers need consequences to their actions, if there violence and brutality goes unchecked then there is nothing that compels them to change their ways. I believe it will be necessary to make an example out of an officer to remind the police that they have to follow the law too.

Alex Medwid said...

I think that he definitely should have been indicted. Indicting would simply put the case to trial, it would not be an assertion of the officer's guilt. Grand juries are supposed to function more as a "reality check" rather than an actual assessment of guilt. The grand jury was misused both here and in Ferguson.

Governments of all types can ease this tension by altering judicial processes for police officers (anything that results in bodily harm to a civilian goes directly to trial, bypassing a grand jury, or by implementing more body cameras as Obama proposes.

Violent abuse of police power should be penalized much more heavily than typical violent crime. I can't say exactly how much greater, whether it should be double the penalty or a minimum five year jail time or whatever, but it must be greater than that of a civilian if there was a clear abuse of power.

Finally, I am more outraged by this case than I was by Ferguson. In the Ferguson case I don't have enough evidence to decide who was in the wrong. However, in this case there is video evidence that the victim of police violence did absolutely nothing to deserve it. This deserves much more attention than Ferguson.

Karen Chow said...

I don’t agree with the jury’s decision to not indict Garner. The video is proof of the police officer’s guilt—even though Garner told them repeatedly that he couldn't breathe, the officer continued to sustain his chokehold. Even though there is video evidence that clearly reveals the situation, people still aren't seeing police officers committing crimes, as shown by the actions of the grand jury. I’m glad that Obama plans to create a program that would provide video camera equipment to police officers so that controversial events like Ferguson can be avoided in the future, but this recent killing gives me some doubts about the effectiveness of video evidence. As seen in just the YouTube comments of the video, some people are still wholeheartedly blaming the victim. While Garner may not have made the best choices during his encounter with the police by struggling against them, it is not his fault that he was killed. The police officers, or even one of the five, should have taken his statements into account. After handcuffing Garner, they could have released the chokehold. Instead, they took extreme and excessive action by turning him over and forcefully pushing him into the sidewalk, cutting off his access to air even more.

Alex Li said...

I strongly disagree with the grand jury's decision to not indict the police officer who brutally choked Eric Garner to death because the video is clear proof that the man is innocent and did not violate the law in any way.You could hear him saying "I can't breathe" even in the video, which means that the cop obviously could hear him saying that. For him to continue his chokehold despite garner's plea for help is incredibly cruel and I hope the cop dies the most miserable death that anyone can imagine. Police force becomes excessive when it violates the freedoms that all American citizens are granted under the constitution. The issue is lots of people in this country are unaware of the rights they have, so it is pretty easy for police to abuse their power. We should become more educated about our rights so when confronted by an unlawful cop, we can embarress them in public.

Brian Yee said...

As most of my classmates have already mentioned, this was an unjust and cruel act. The police officers never really gave Eric Garner a chance to verbally defend himself and instead went straight to putting him into a choke-hold. This incident shows that the police are abusing more of their power and possibly not even realizing their limits. While the training programs that are put into place to reduce police brutality are great, I have a bit more confidence in Obama's plans to to create a program that would provide video camera equipment to officers. While Karen did have a few doubts, I feel that they would be extremely effective that is considering that the cameras are on whenever the officers are out on the field. In fact, a year long study showed that using "officer-worn cameras" reduced the number of use of force incidents by almost 60%. The Eric Garner incident just goes to show that not everyone behaves "better" when on camera or video, and this program would reduce the number of these types of incidents. I also feel that abuse of police power should have the consequence of taking something out of their paycheck, or as Alex mentioned, jail time.