Mayor de Blasio Declares Justice Finally Served after Officer Pantaleo Fired for Death of Eric Garner
IBexclusive News Monday August 19, 2019.
(IBEXNews) - Mayor de Blasio bid the city to move on from Eric Garner’s death and declared justice was served with the police commissioner’s announcement on Monday to fire the officer responsible for putting the Staten Island father in a fatal chokehold.
“Today, we have finally seen justice done — today we saw the NYPD’s own disciplinary process act fairly and impartially,” de Blasio said at City Hall on Monday after Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced he booted Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in Garner’s death on July 17, 2014.
Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes-Garner, said O’Neill “finally made a decision that should have been made five years ago.”
“I should be here with my father," she said. “Pantaleo took that away from me.”
Police Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch all but called for a cop slowdown — saying officers should now proceed with the “utmost caution” when carrying out arrests.
And O’Neill spoke of seeing Garner’s death through Pantaleo’s eyes — admitting “may have made similar mistakes” under the same circumstances.
But de Blasio attempted to cast the decision in terms of the future, arguing Garner’s death was the result of unfair police practices that have ended in the years since.
“This must be the last tragedy that we experience,” he said. “This must be the last time. We have to say one to another, never again, we’ll never let this happen in our city again. That will take a lot of work and it will take a lot of time. But that change can happen.”
De Blasio said the police department has already transformed on his watch. His administration ordered cops be retrained in de-escalation and implicit bias, increased the number of officers on patrol and outfitted officers with new equipment including police body cams.
“I know the NYPD has changed profoundly,” de Blasio said. “I know that members of the NYPD learned the lessons of this tragedy.”
Garner’s tragic death has shaped much of de Blasio’s time at City Hall. De Blasio ran for mayor in 2013 by promising to end to inequality and the “tale of two cities.” He pledged to change how the city polices black and brown New Yorkers and said he would put a stop to “racial profiling” by the force.
Garner was killed less than eight months into de Blasio’s first term, when Pantaleo and other cops attempted to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island. A video of the death, obtained by The Daily News, showed Garner pleading for his life, gasping with Pantaleo’s arm around his throat 11 times: “I can’t breathe!”
“We all watched a human being die before our eyes on a video. We watched a man who should be still alive today,” de Blasio said on Monday. “And it was so difficult for all of us to reconcile what we saw with what we must believe about law enforcement – our officers are here to protect us, keep us safe, and yet we watched a man die, an unarmed man.”
The mayor said the day after that he had confidence there was going to be a “very full and thorough investigation” into the “terrible tragedy.” When a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in December 2014, sparking weeks of protests across the city, de Blasio spoke about instructing his biracial son “on how to take special care” when encountering police. Later that month, two police officers were killed by a man invoking Garner’s death, and police unions blamed de Blasio’s comments. Hundreds of cops turned their backs on de Blasio at their funerals.
De Blasio put off city disciplinary proceedings for Pantaleo for years to wait for the Justice Department to wrap up a federal civil rights investigation under both President Trump and Obama. When that didn’t happen after four and a half years, the disciplinary trial began in May.
The feds finally announced they wouldn’t bring charges the day before the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death. A few weeks later, a departmental judge recommended Pantaleo be fired.
The mayor said Monday O’Neill made the decision to fire Pantaleo without input or influence from him or anyone else at City Hall.
“Today will not bring Eric Garner back, but I hope it brings some small measure of closure and peace to the Garner family,” he said.