The Fallout from the Death of Eric Garner

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio discuss the investigation into the death of Eric Garner while in police custody. (Brigid Bergin/WNYC)

Questions persist about police and EMS conduct in the arrest of Eric Garner last week. Garner was put in a chokehold, and died shortly thereafter. As a member of the City Council public safety committee that oversees the NYPD, Jumaane Williams, New York City councilmember (D-45) representing Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, and Canarsie in Brooklyn, talks about his reaction and possible council response to Garner's fatal arrest. Plus, Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission and former assistant DA who once led investigation into police misconduct on behalf of the Public Advocate's office, discusses what we know about the case, and how police are trained to act in situations like this.


Richard Aborn and Jumaane D. Williams

Comments [40]


This is not a Black and White issue, This is the use of Deadly Force,the video shows clearly, but where has this story been? I don't understand how any Law enforcement trained personnel can stand there and say this is Racists, that's bullshit, The Police Officer used Excessive Force, now the city can spin it anyway they want. All the training police officers go thru to serve the public service, they got it wrong, and the City should pay for that life that was taken away. If you want to fix the black and white issue,then start by looking at behavior of blacks and whites, there,s no respect on both sides, nothing is said of blacks breaking the law and they think there entitled to do so,without police interaction.


Dec. 04 2014 10:37 AM
David Austreng from Yacolt, WA

It was homicide - prosecute the perpetrators. No one is above the law. This was one of the saddest things i've ever seen. PROSECUTE AND LET JUSTICE BE SERVED! This is an outrage!

How can anyone believe in a justice system where race is a factor? Prosecute those dam police officers now - have no mercy. IT WAS HOMICIDE.

What a wonderful soul this man was. G-d bless the innocent and demand justice to the guilty. Enough is enough - I stand with the black community and justice must be served...


Aug. 04 2014 02:43 AM
louis from spring hill florida

As a retired nypd 1965-1985 I constantly received in service training on the use of physical force necessary, the use of deadly physical force, and the civil rights law that affected us all.
This was valuable training that I remembered constantly when dealing with arrest situations, and mentally challenged people.
That helped me during my 20 years.

Aug. 03 2014 11:32 AM

If you are black in the USA, you are GUILTY, and you, black man and woman,
have to prove yourself innocent. Being big and dark, makes you even more guilty/target. DO-NOT-RESIST-ARREST! Innocent until proven guilty, does not apply to black people!
Some police officers, see only one thing: black = trouble, batons, tazers and guns, at the ready.

Jul. 23 2014 05:29 PM
c hudgins

The police were unprepared to subdue a huge hysterical man. It seems from the video that they felt the need to show the on-lookers and the man that they were stronger,more manly and able to physically control him.Their training needs to focus more on talking to someone who is obviously hysterical or knowing when to call for help from someone who is trained for these situations.Nobody was in danger; the policeman was not being attacked.I think their actions showed a lack of judgement

Jul. 23 2014 02:03 AM

even a police officer would think otherwise about NY policing...

Jul. 22 2014 04:36 PM

Your damn right it is a scary thing going up to a 400 pound infuriated man to tell him he is doing something wrong. If you havent done it, you should try it some time. Police officers in NYC dont go to work to fight or to take away someones life on purpose. They just want to do their job and get home safe at the end of a thankless day. For the people who argue that this is such a low level crime and why should police enforce these type of crimes, I say its BECAUSE ITS IN THE PENAL LAW THATS WHY. It is not up to the police to decide what they "feel" is wrong. They are there to enforce laws that were put into place after much deliberation. If you dont like the laws then vote to change them and have them removed from the law books. This situation is a tragedy, but believe that not one of those officers wishes it went that way.

Jul. 22 2014 03:59 PM
marc from Queens, N.Y.

One very important thing no one is discussing is that the police officers in this city have very few tools at their disposal for dealing with these type of situations. Police officers have their firearm for obvious reasons and they have a can of mace, wich works poorly in real world situations due to it blinding most everyone at a scene and a baton stick that is pre-historic and viewed as negatively when applyed to civilians in todays video crazed world. It is time our officers were armed with tasers. The use of a taser would diffuse these situations instantly and without incident most of the time. The NYPD currently only allows its supervisors to carry a taser (and are hardly allowed to use it). In the real world of policing, there is usually a very limited amount of time to await for a supervisor to arrive to a scene. It is the frontline men and women that need these valuable tools at their disposal. There needs to be an additional step between using force and deadly force.

Jul. 22 2014 03:18 PM
mike from long island

if you look at the video, it wasnt a choke hold. a choke hold compresses the neck from the front and the back. it was more of a half nelson, to get the person on the ground. by simply falling backward, any pressure on the front of the neck would be relieved. in a choke hold, there is no way out of it. i do believe the coroner report that a choke hold wasnt applied. sure , he didnt have to die, but he didnt have to put up a struggle either. we live, and sometimes die, by the choices we make.

Jul. 22 2014 03:04 PM
David Hodgson from 125th st Westside

has there been any consideration that Eric Gardner was already in cardiac distress as he was behaving irrationally given that he had been arrested many times before.
If the police officer knew him they might have wounded why he was behaving apparantly out of character if in fact he was.

Jul. 22 2014 12:05 PM

If these were not NYPD officers but had occurred in the south, the media would be saying with one voice that the incident shows that the lives of blacks is not as valuable as those of whites! Instead of changing the subject to tell us what a policing genius Bratton is, you'd be talking about racism.

Jul. 22 2014 11:52 AM

When white cops surround a person of color, they seem to default to violence. I'm almost seventy, and every year their is at least one incident like this and the cops usually get off, even if he has a history of this kind of behavior. They don't do this kind of thing against white people. They seem to be afraid of black people. Why is selling cigarettes an offense that warrants an arrest? I saw no offensive movements from Mr. Garner, so why did the cops think they needed to get violent from a non violent person? Why is it when someone says that he can't breathe, what he gets is not only someone sitting on his gut, but also someone holding his head on the ground? And lastly, how come no one performed CPR? I'm sure that every cop and ems on the scene had their little red cross card in their wallet.

Jul. 22 2014 11:30 AM
TLee from NY Metro

This is not a discussion of whether or not police officers are "good" or "bad," I think any reasonable individual can agree that the binary is a worthless discussion. It is also not a discussion of whether or not police officers are exposed to dangerous situations - they are, and it's a reality of their job. Can we really, as a society that financially compensates their police officers (this isn't actually true worldwide) and where cops are deified (good or bad) as heroic, that it's a "thankless job"?

The issue here is whether or not this individual, detained dozens of times for hustling cigarettes, was handled with excessive force that ultimately precipitated in his death. That's the issue.

Given these two facts: 1) A man this size would have quite a bit of fatty tissue in and around his neck, 2) ANY constricting of the windpipe causes "air hunger," which results in panic and a flood of adrenaline; Mr. Garner doesn't have to exhibit the telltale signs of choking injury - petechiae or a broken hyoid bone - to demonstrate how this action catalyzed his death.

A rush of adrenaline to a weak heart as well the lungs of an asthmatic? Then kneeling on his head/back as he repeatedly says, "I can't breathe"? It's sad to hear all of the double-speak and obfuscating of the issue by talking about how unappreciated police officers are and how dangerous their jobs are. A trauma surgeon can't panic every time a trauma rolls in. If they do and the patient dies, no excuses. What would we say if firefighters poured lighter fluid on small fires, just so that they then became big enough to require firetrucks rather than a household extinguisher?

As a medical professional, the video brought me to tears. As an observer of nature, this footage looks like a wildebeest being taken down by a pack in the savannah. Can we really justify a police officer jumping on the back of an unarmed and unaggressive man, wrapping his arm around the throat said human?

No, we cannot.

Jul. 22 2014 11:11 AM
CR from Manhattan

Duke -

The video we saw was the end of the altercation, not the beginning. They already "talked it out." The perp was known to the police officers. He had been arrested multiple times for the same offense and apparently other offenses. He had been observed breaking the law, was confronted by the police, was informed he was under arrest, THEN the video started. Looks can be deceiving. Videos frequently show only a small part of an incident.

Jul. 22 2014 11:00 AM
Nick from UWS

The initial police report fully illustrates one thing: the police are liars, and lying is the direct opposite of upholding truth and justice. Therefore the police are not qualified to be the police.

Jul. 22 2014 10:59 AM
BLR from Staten Island

As a white woman who lives on the North Shore of Staten Island, I can attest to the blatant racism that pervades relations between the police force and many citizens who live on the North Shore. Indeed, I have NOT been impressed by the policing I have seen on the Island - according to neighbors (some of whom are retired police officers), the SI precincts are full of those who couldn't get assigned to better precincts in other boroughs.

The discrepancy between the police report and what was captured on the video should give pause: whose narrative matters? If there hadn't been a video, would this incident have even made a ripple?

Jul. 22 2014 10:54 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ RUCB_Alum

"...the shooter in the Santiago case will be convicted. I'm not even certain that the officer(s) involved with Garner will be charged."

Exactly. Nobody (except trolls trying to change the subject) object to justice for cop killers. Nor should anyone object to justice for bad cops... I don't think the cops are murderers but they are probably guilty of a crime (2D Manslaughter) and need to do some time. A man is dead and it wasn't an accident, it was willful misconduct, nothing will change that.

Jul. 22 2014 10:54 AM
john from office

Thank god for the call from the retired cop!!! GOD BLESS HIM AND HIS FAMILY.

Jul. 22 2014 10:53 AM

Did Bratton really say what your cop caller quoted? That's the problem right there, the double-down macho mentality of the police 'force'. Also, an illustrtatyion that the zero-tolerance and community approaches to policing are antithetical. Bratton should go.

Jul. 22 2014 10:53 AM

Whether it was a choke hold are not has less to do with what the cop did and more to do with what the rules say a choke hold is. Change the rules!

Jul. 22 2014 10:52 AM
Nick from UWS

Why is the NYPD hiring people who need training not to choke someone to death? Is that a concept that needs to be taught? Is that the kind of people they're hiring...guys that need to be trained not to kill someone for no reason?

Jul. 22 2014 10:52 AM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

Oh ok so he was suspected of tax evasion for selling cigs,then it's ok to have him die and use force on him

So follow that logic and storm the corporate accountants in the USA who find a way to pay NO TAX
And beat them

Jul. 22 2014 10:48 AM
duke, mg from manh

To the caller retired police lieut on LI:

What the POs should have done is talk to the man they wanted to arrest, who appears to have been arguing with them that it wasn’t just to arrest him. What not talk it out for a while and let reason prevail? Why jump so quickly to brutal force?

Jul. 22 2014 10:48 AM

All the posts offering the 'What about the ...' distractions. When did two wrongs make a right?

Santiago should not have been murdered in ambush. Eric Garner should not have died. I have no doubt that the shooter in the Santiago case will be convicted. I'm not even certain that the officer(s) involved with Garner will be charged.

Jul. 22 2014 10:47 AM

No, they don't HAVE to get him down. There are more choices than "attacking the guy" or "walking away". How about a standing off for a while and talking him down. There were more than 2 options. here.

Jul. 22 2014 10:45 AM
Nick from UWS

This Aborn is full of shit. Eric Garner was not violent. This was not a violent confrontation. All violence in this situation came directly from the police. End of story.

Jul. 22 2014 10:44 AM
john from office

Wow, Brian has out done himself with this "Cops Be Bad" Segemnt, he picked the right guest.

Waiting for the show on Office Santiago, shot in the head by a thug "hero" and the police woman, punched in the face by a thug "hero".

Jul. 22 2014 10:44 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Brian: Was that a choke hold?

PBA: No, the suspect was giving the officer a pony ride. it got a little out of hand.

What part of "ANY PRESSURE TO THE THROAT OR WINDPIPE" does our hallowed host not understand?

Jul. 22 2014 10:43 AM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

Of course it was a choke hold !

But then again water boarding is not torture

Jul. 22 2014 10:43 AM

"Police work is a thankless job"
-- well, that's just not factually true. They get paid every week. They get raises. They get stripes and badges. They get accommodations. But feel free to just make things up if ya wanna.

Jul. 22 2014 10:39 AM
John from office

Diction Diction Diction!!!!

Jul. 22 2014 10:39 AM
duke, mg from manh

The crucial step needed to the bad practices of NYPD at the root is to restore the regulation requiring all police officers to live within city limits, preferably within the borough in which they work.

The kneejerk argument that apartments in NYC are too expensive for NYPD personnel can be resolved by putting police officers at the top of all lists for NYCHA housing, which would also address the problem that those projects are among the most crime-ridden areas of the city.

I hope that Councilman Williams will introduce legislation to these effects without delay, and do what he can to make them part of the new NYPD contract now under negotiation.

Jul. 22 2014 10:37 AM
Jeff Pappas from Dumbo

Police brutality is everywhere in the USA every day
Police must be held accountable and just like if I speed in a work zone ALL FINES ARE DOUBLED
Prison for bad cops

Jul. 22 2014 10:35 AM
Ryan from Chelsea, NYC

To your last caller's point, he's right, it's never going to change. Remember Amadou Diallo?

Jul. 22 2014 10:34 AM
Bobby GG from East Village

I wonder what the police story would have been if there had been no video.

Jul. 22 2014 10:33 AM
John from office

The Police Woman was working to safeguard people in their homes in the projects, and her reward was to get assaulted and no one in the hood came forward to ID the thug who hit her. This shocked even local politicians in East Harlem. Police work is a thankless job, Brian will of course allow callers to make all kinds of comments and accusation, without proof, because we cannot have a Cops be Bad segment, without the calls from the Community.

Brian, where is the show about Office Santigo, who got shot by a thug, who was then idolized by the Hood??? Where is that show Brian??

Jul. 22 2014 10:31 AM

How much of this problem is about the police and how much of it is about the rules they operate by and their training under those rules????

Leave the cops alone. Change the rules they are taught!!!

Jul. 22 2014 10:29 AM

Bravo, John from office.
Neither Sharpton nor the usual rabble rousers marched behind Officer Santiago's body over in NJ.

Jul. 22 2014 10:18 AM
john from office

Way to go Brian, a really impartial quest!Anyone that stages a photo opp by being arrested, at the West Indian Day Parade, is not an impartial guest.

Brian a police woman had her teeth knocked out by a pot smoking thug, in East Harlem, where is the show about that??

Here we go again, another Police Bad segment.

Jul. 22 2014 10:12 AM

From what little of the video that I watched, it appears that Eric Garner died because the white guys involved were frightened by his size. Surely, using a taser is less lethal than a choke hold. There may have been some black cops on the scene but I did not see them. This is an argument for greater diversity in our police departments. Less chance to see the public that you serve as other. Fifty years ago, an incident like this could spawn a riot. Thank goodness that the escalation of violence is less likely but the situations that create it are still abundant.

Jul. 22 2014 10:10 AM

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