In his speech announcing his decision to fire NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, Police Commissioner James O'Neill reflected upon his 30+ years as being a 'cop' and how the entire incident is a tragedy. He said "It is unlikely that Mr. Garner thought he was in such poor health that a brief struggle with police would cause his death. He should have decided against resisting arrest."
The Commissioner was correct - had Mr. Garner complied with the lawful orders of PO Pantaleo and the other officers it would have been another uneventful arrest for the NYPD and for Garner. As the Commissioner recounted, Officer Pantaleo himself had 265 arrests over his career, none of which resulted in injuries to those arrested. For his part, Garner had been arrested thirty times by NYPD for charges including assault, grand larceny, and selling loosies (tax-free single cigarettes out of the box). Officer Pantaleo didn't set out on his shift on July 17, 2014, looking to arrest somebody for selling loosies, he was ordered to upon arriving at the scene. PO Pantaleo responded to a 911 call from a business owner wanting enforcement of Garner's offense outside his business, a crime the NYPD brass considered serious enough for the Chief of Department Philip Banks to issue an order for officers to 'crackdown on'.
The difference between Garner's extensive criminal history and that fateful day in 2014 was Garner didn't feel like being arrested again. "Every time you see me, you want to mess with me," he exclaimed. "I'm tired of it. It stops today." As the NYPD teaches in its Verbal Judo and as every cop knows, you can't just turn around and walk away when someone doesn't want to comply with your lawful order. PO Pantaleo and his fellow cops did everything they could to get Mr. Garner to comply. When it was clear Garner wouldn't comply, it was time to act. Rather than using strikes which would have been justified, PO Pantaleo tried to get the much larger (6'3", 350+ pounds) Garner under control using a tactical submission hold.
In reviewing the contributing factors of Garner's health issues and the totality of the circumstances leading to his death, a Staten Island Grand Jury of PO Pantaleo's peers presented 'no true bill' as they concluded he committed no crime in his interaction with Garner. The Eastern District of New York, after nearly five years of investigating, found there was "insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Pantaleo acted in willful violation of federal law". In coming to their decision, the federal government rightfully considered "Officer Pantaleo's actions in light of his training and experience, Mr. Garner's size and weight and actions to resist arrest in the duration and escalating nature of the interaction".
Two established processes of our judicial system took all the circumstances into account and despite the tragic results of Mr. Garner's death, found PO Pantaleo did nothing wrong. In another era that would have been sufficient and PO Pantaleo could have resumed his work as a Police Officer. Not surprisingly, an administrative NYPD Judge ensured the mob threatening civil disobedience got its 'justice' in ruling PO Pantaleo acted 'recklessly'. DeBlasio's Commissioner used that charge of recklessness as the basis for his decision to support the firing of PO Pantaleo.
Garner's death was a tragedy that could have been prevented had he simply cooperated with the police. Pantaleo's firing is not a tragedy, it's a disgrace that could have been prevented if Police Commissioner O'Neill chose the men and women of the NYPD over his personal ambitions to remain as the titular head of NYPD. The Commissioner acknowledged the split-second decisions police make in volatile situations, yet in this case, O'Neill had years to consider this moment. Commissioner O'Neill can reference his time as a cop as much as he wants, but that's no longer what he is to the men and women who don the NYPD patch daily. A Commissioner that's still a cop at heart wouldn't sit idly by and allow his officers to be denigrated, demoralized and paralyzed by the political leadership of NYC. A Commissioner that's still a cop at heart wouldn't acquiesce to mob rule over the rule of law. What the Commissioner is now is a traitor to the active Police Officers whose service made NYC one of the safest cities in the world.
With the firing of PO Pantaleo for doing the job he was ordered upon arrival of that 911 call to do - Commissioner O'Neill has solidified his place as a puppet for the anti-Police DeBlasio administration. So long as O'Neill and DeBlasio run NYC and the NYPD, mob rule will have their way and the hard-working police and law-abiding citizens in the city will suffer. We stand in solidarity with our fellow Officers in NYPD as they toil through this ordeal. Members and loved ones alike are asked to support PO Pantaleo in his time of need. Further details for a fundraiser to support PO Pantaleo will follow.