Police Unions Go on Offensive After Eric Garner's Death

The city's two largest police unions are firing back at critics of the New York Police Department, who have grown louder and more numerous since the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner July 17, and the subsequent ruling by the city's medical examiner that Garner's death was caused by a policeman's use of a chokehold while he was being arrested. 

"You know we've heard a lot in the last number of weeks about what police officers can't do and what police officers shouldn't do," Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, said at a news conference. "No one's telling us what we are able to do and what we should do when we're faced with a situation where the person placed under arrest says,'I'm not going.'"

The PBA has maintained that while Garner's death was a tragedy, it could have been avoided if he had complied with officers who arrested him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes. 

Lynch was joined by members of a fellow police union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, during a press conference on Tuesday. Both unions accused the Rev. Al Sharpton of politicizing the case. Sharpton has been pushing for a federal investigation into Garner's death. 

"He shouldn't have the right to sit at the lead table at City Hall and stir up the streets to where it becomes dangerous for police officers," Lynch said, referring to Sharpton's meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio on July 31

In response, Sharpton said in a statement that his National Action Network is a credible organization that President Obama has addressed in the past. He said he would continue to call for a federal investigation for a fair and impartial look at the facts. 

Lynch also admonished the city medical examiner for characterizing Garner's cause of death as a "chokehold," which he said is not a medical term, and vowed to have medical examiners reassess the autopsy when it is finally released. 

A representative from the medical examiner's office said the report was based on a scientific investigation.