The death of Eric Garner
July 22, 2014 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Last week, a 43 year-old man named Eric Garner died during an arrest on Staten Island, New York, when he was put in what looked like a choke hold. The NYPD claims that Mr. Garner was selling illegally cigarettes outside a store. The entire encounter, which was videotaped and posted to YouTube, (graphic) has so far resulted in the removal of the badge and gun from the arresting officers, as well as the suspension of two EMTs and two paramedics who were seen on another video taking Garner's pulse but apparently doing little else for about two minutes.

An NYPD internal report prepared right after his death on Staten Island last Thursday plays down the incident, with supervising officers failing to note the chokehold and insisting Garner was not in “great distress.”

The death of Eric Garner has brought more attention and protests against NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, the former Police Commissioner under Rudolph Giuliani, who then went on to serve for the LAPD before being hired by Mayor de Blasio last winter.

"I didn’t do shit!” Garner can be seen telling cops in a video of the incident. “I was just minding my own business."

“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me," he added. "I’m tired of it ... Please just leave me alone!”


How Anonymous Cops Online Are Reacting to the Death of Eric Garner
posted by roomthreeseventeen (167 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that last link is certainly charming.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:02 AM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


I think that PoliceOne.com will shortly be changing its policies so that unregistered users can't read the messages. That's a window into a nasty culture.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:06 AM on July 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


Of the many upsetting parts of the anonymous cops comments, one that stood out to me was the assumption that it was ridiculous, stupid, and contrary of Mr. Garner not to immediately submit to the police regardless of what he had or had not done. As if the default position is that cops are always right and must be obeyed, rather than that cops have a burden (and a professional obligation) to show good reason for using handcuffs, and to use good reason when dealing with people. It reminds me of the Henry Louis Gates arrest, where his "crime" was basically talking back.
posted by sallybrown at 7:09 AM on July 22, 2014 [76 favorites]


as well as the suspension of two EMTs and two paramedics who were seen on another video taking Garner's pulse but apparently doing little else for about two minutes.

The folks at /r/ems are very critical of the EMT's, but some note that the paramedics, who arrived later, may have done their job adequetely and may only be suspended because the FDNY EMS policy, unlike the police policy, is to suspend everyone involved in an incident until after the investigation.
posted by Jahaza at 7:17 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Filming police certainly has its upside. Without video of the incident, this would have been quietly swept under the rug.
posted by Renoroc at 7:21 AM on July 22, 2014 [44 favorites]


They keep showing what is pretty obviously his moment of death on NY1 about every 30 minutes or so and I'm super conflicted about it for so many reasons but ultimately I think they're doing a good thing. I guess.
posted by elizardbits at 7:21 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Do what they say or they will kill you...that's law enforcement.
posted by judson at 7:23 AM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


Filming police certainly has its upside. Without video of the incident, this would have been quietly swept under the rug.

Yet another reason why cops shouldn't be allowed on shift without recording devices. Preferably streaming to a remote server that mirrors to several backups that can't easily be disappeared.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:24 AM on July 22, 2014 [34 favorites]


Yeah, the fighting pervasive surveillance train has sailed. Fight to use it for good instead of as well as evil.
posted by Behemoth at 7:25 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not a police officer, and in fact, part of my job was stripping police of their peace officer license to take them off the street, sometimes for excessive force and sometimes for even more completely screwed up behavior. As a result, though, I've learned that a lot of police are essentially trained in something called, "N + 1" "Force + 1." That is, if someone is resisting arrest, you are legally allowed to respond to that resistance with the next level of force. Thus, if someone is refusing to allow handcuffs to be placed upon them, you can take steps to force them to submit, such as an arm hold and what have you.

I think it's very obvious that one officer used a choke hold, intentionally or not, on Mr. Garner, but I think the behavior of the police was not exceptionally one of great abuse or excessive force. No one should have died here, but from my perspective, I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command.
posted by Atreides at 7:26 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


From the reddit EMS thread:
On the bright side, it's nice to know that when things like this happen in EMS, we all can look at the people involved and know that they will be lose their jobs and possibly freedom. Unlike law enforcement, we gladly burn our own because an embarrassment like this isn't taken lightly by the EMS community. That's something we should be proud of.
posted by crayz at 7:28 AM on July 22, 2014 [67 favorites]


Atreides: "I think it's very obvious that one officer used a choke hold, intentionally or not, on Mr. Garner, but I think the behavior of the police was not exceptionally one of great abuse or excessive force. No one should have died here, but from my perspective, I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command."

This is the part I don't understand. How does this extend to ignoring a guy when he says "I can't breathe" nine times? How do you paint that as an "accident"?
posted by savetheclocktower at 7:28 AM on July 22, 2014 [44 favorites]


I'm seeing a lot of fat hate along with the racism in that last link, the one where the cops get to speak out anonymously. You can be killed by cops for Existing While Black. If you're also fat, God help you, they will kill you and laugh about it.

Fuck the police.
posted by edheil at 7:29 AM on July 22, 2014 [41 favorites]


I realize that he was breaking the law by selling loosies on the sidewalk (or so I've heard), and that he was probably resisting arrest (ok). I don't understand why it takes 4 cops to bust this guy for said loosies, or why that's something that you've got to arrest someone over. Write him a ticket, man.

This stuff is exactly why cops scare the shit out of me. Even having been in situations in my life when I really needed the cops, and they were very helpful, the degree of discretion they can wield is a double-edged sword.
posted by wormwood23 at 7:31 AM on July 22, 2014 [40 favorites]


Filming police certainly has its upside. Without video of the incident, this would have been quietly swept under the rug.

It is crucial. These days, there is no excuse for conflicting accounts when there is the means to settle on the truthful account from the get-go.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:33 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I see this as a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command. Because of the murdering that followed the failing to obey the command.
posted by edheil at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2014 [66 favorites]


Once the cops turn their attention on you in the US, your choices are: 1) let the entire process play out according to their instructions and to their satisfaction and try to straighten things out later with the meager tools afforded you by the justice system; 2) suffer whatever force they feel entitled to dish out for your insolence.

The only real way to deal is to just pray the cops never turn their eyes on you.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2014 [61 favorites]


I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command.

This phrases it as a dichotomy that doesn't really exist. They didn't plan to murder him, but they subdued him without regard for the consequences of their use of force either beforehand or at the time, because N+1, as I guess it's called. Like innocent people and pets shot during SWAT raids, these interactions occur within a context in which someone can die for failing to immediately, knowingly submit, with no consequences for the cops. That's fucked up. There's a hundred different ways beforehand that a situation like this could be avoided or defused, and they don't, because N+1, because "respect mah authoritas!", because they created a situation in which death was an outcome and didn't care to avoid it.

If someone dies because you roll a boulder down a hill, you shouldn't get off because they failed to get out of the way.

And like geek sexism controversies, half the horror is the after-action expressions by the perpetrator's community. How do you not see that as, at least, a PR disaster?
posted by fatbird at 7:36 AM on July 22, 2014 [26 favorites]


Good on de Blasio for postponing his vacation as a direct response. I think it really helped to draw attention to the incident. (Which is horrifying.)
posted by likeatoaster at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Re: my earlier rant... to be fair, there is sometimes a third option: acquiesce completely then buy your way out with money and/or power later.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hello 911; some people with guns are assaulting an unarmed citizen.

.
posted by buzzman at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


I haven't watched the video - this kind of thing greatly disturbs me; I also find it awful that they're playing the guy's death on TV. Like elizardbits says, I guess it's a good thing to shed light on, but should we be playing his death on the news?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2014


The only real way to deal is to just pray the cops never turn their eyes on you.

Even better than praying, being born with white skin, putting on a suit and committing your crimes on Wall Street will get you really good odds of not being beaten to death by the police.
posted by crayz at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


Also - yeah, the fat-hate is awful and calling the deceased a "piece of shit" is lacking in all kinds of humanity.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:40 AM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


I have a cousin (by marriage) who is a police officer. It was disheartening to see him arguing with people on Facebook following this incident, of course taking the "The cops did absolutely nothing wrong here" approach, followed by defiantly posting a bunch of "Everybody thinks they are an expert on law enforcement" memes. Anecdotal, I know, but the circling of the wagons seems pretty ingrained in the culture.
posted by The Gooch at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


I wasn't being sarcastic above, BTW. Those are the two things you can do: acquiesce or suffer whatever the cops deem should be the consequences. It's totally fucked up and not fair, but it's something I'll be teaching my kid to protect his life.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:44 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Hey you know what wins public support? Making fun of someone we just murdered!"
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 AM on July 22, 2014 [26 favorites]


I think it's very obvious that one officer used a choke hold, intentionally or not, on Mr. Garner, but I think the behavior of the police was not exceptionally one of great abuse or excessive force. No one should have died here, but from my perspective, I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command.


I assume that you were not dealing with peace officers in New York after 1983? Choke holds were permitted by the NYPD only when an officer's life was in immediate danger from then on. They were specifically disallowed under any circumstance in 1993. So, police officers in New York have had 20 years to work out how not to choke people. It's surprising it hasn't bubbled through by now, really.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:45 AM on July 22, 2014 [26 favorites]


As if the default position is that cops are always right and must be obeyed, rather than that cops have a burden (and a professional obligation) to show good reason for using handcuffs, and to use good reason when dealing with people. It reminds me of the Henry Louis Gates arrest, where his "crime" was basically talking back.

He would have been arrested whether he talked back / resisted or not. Per the linked articles, Garner was allegedly committing a crime that apparently is reported to the police by shop owners somewhat often, as they feel that someone selling cigarettes individually is stealing their livelihood. The cops do arrest people on those charges.

Plus, and PoliceOne is obviously a biased source, but they note Garner was a career criminal with a history of misdemeanors and (what I assume are) felonies.
Garner has been arrested 31 times since 1988 on charges such as drug possession, selling untaxed cigarettes and assault, police said. He was last arrested in May for selling untaxed cigarettes, court records show. Since 2009, he was arrested nine different times for selling such cigarettes, police said.
He also reportedly had three cigarette-related misdemeanor arrests pending in Criminal Court.

It's likely that the arresting officers were aware of all of this.

But why the fuck did they need four officers to arrest one guy for a misdemeanor? None of them have ever had to subdue a large suspect before? And that chokehold almost definitely resulted in Garner's death. Chokeholds can cause a person to panic and in someone with severe asthma, that panic can be fatal. Ultimately, ignoring someone saying nine times, "I can't breathe!" when you are arresting them is criminally negligent. I hope a jury throws the book at them for manslaughter.
posted by zarq at 7:48 AM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


Yet another reason why cops shouldn't be allowed on shift without recording devices. Preferably streaming to a remote server that mirrors to several backups that can't easily be disappeared.

Do you really trust police departments to implement this, though? It may be more effective to get a nonprofit to distribute handheld cameras to people in low income areas. At least they have incentive (as seen here and many other instances) to record and distribute instances of abuse.
posted by indubitable at 7:50 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Do you really trust police departments to implement [recording devices], though?

This is not a hypothetical. Rialto, California's police wear constantly recording lapel cameras now and their incidents of force, pepper spray, tazing, etc. have all gone down dramatically.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:55 AM on July 22, 2014 [37 favorites]


Re: "the cops did nothing wrong!"

It is certainly possible that the cops in this case did nothing outside of their training. But that does not mean that they did nothing wrong.

I'd like to see more dialogue around the notion that, where there is obvious unjustified harm and the system in which it occurred cannot or will not allocate blame, then the system itself should be changed in response. Unfortunately a lot of systems exist for the unstated purpose of diffusing blame.

In my ideal world, either these guys would be fired or the entire training for how and when to subdue someone would be re-thought. (If not both.)
posted by gauche at 7:56 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

Respectfully, that's not how that works. Were someone to choke you in a similar fashion right now, you would quite possibly still have enough air to say, "Fuck, I was wrong!" nine times.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2014 [102 favorites]


However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

Except not really? I'm a runner, and if I'm sprinting with someone and need to slow down, I can eke out a "Hold on, I can't breathe" and self regulate. It doesn't mean that my lungs were okay.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:59 AM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


Five fresh fish, exactly. If you can say "I can't breathe" multiple times, that is evidence of breathing. That alone is not damning evidence.

Still, I think this is an example of excessive force and that these cops should not be allowed back.
posted by samthemander at 8:00 AM on July 22, 2014


Cops across America are using ever-increasing deadly force of one kind or another against people demonstrating even the slightest bit of non-cooperation or hostility of any kind. That includes looking at a cop cross-eyed, at this point. By contrast, check these London cops and how they handled a guy with a freaking machete screaming and charging at them. In the US that obviously mentally disturbed individual would be dead now. He would have died in a hail of bullets the instant he stepped toward an officer.

US cops are out of control and scary as hell, and Eric Garner was murdered, plain and simple.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 AM on July 22, 2014 [43 favorites]


In a civilized country, selling loose smokes wouldn't even warrant contact with the police beyond the issuing of a summons.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2014 [36 favorites]


I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

"I can't breathe" doesn't necessarily mean that the victim's air supply has been 100% cut off - it could just as easily mean "you're making it really fucking hard for me to breathe".
posted by item at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2014 [36 favorites]


Well, he was obviously able to breathe right up until the point that he couldn't any longer. So I guess he was right.
posted by adipocere at 8:03 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Do you really trust police departments to implement [recording devices], though?

Police body recorders seem to "malfunction" frequently before suspects are brutally assaulted. Either that or the tapes go missing after the fact.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:03 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Breathing isn't a binary thing with plenty of air/zero air as the options. As roomthreeseventeen pointed out, a person can have severely hampered breathing that poses a risk while still having the breath to gasp out a few words.

Getting all pedantic that "I can't breathe!" wasn't a literally true statement is stupid. He could not breathe sufficiently.

Need more proof? Well, he did fucking die.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2014 [148 favorites]


I say this every time, but the NYPD is a disgrace and must be completely disbanded and rebuilt from scratch. This isn't just a bunch of bad apple cops, this is a police force that trains its cops to be bad apples and an institutional culture that promotes racial violence, sexism, and irresponsibility. It must be stopped, and the only way is by dismissing the entire force and starting a new one.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

This is true, but also, there's choke holds that cut off your air supply, and choke holds that cut off blood to the brain (arterial chokes), and you can have one hold that does both at the same time. Arterial chokes can be super fucking dangerous, and are (for good reason) illegal for police to use in many jurisdictions, including, as running order squabble fest notes, New York. It's entirely possible to be going for one type of choke, and accidentally performing the other. An arterial choke can cause a person to lose consciousness in about 10 seconds. (Ask me how I know!)

With arterial chokes, you can potentially breathe fine, and probably won't know you're about to go lights-out until it happens. This is exactly why police should never use choke holds. It's too dangerous, (for the victim and the police - what if your perp has a knife hidden somewhere while your arms are tied up choking them?) and there are better ways to subdue someone.
posted by mrgoat at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]



I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

The trouble is that people will pull shit to get out of trouble. The cops job is to get the dude under arrest - no ifs, ands or buts. In that framework, then, there is no allowance for "I can't breathe" because it has no bearing on whether to arrest him and N+1 does not allow for de-escalation until after he's been secured.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2014


From the FPP: has so far resulted in the removal of the badge and gun from the arresting officers

So far, only one of the murderous pigs has had his badge and gun taken away.
posted by item at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

I have occasionally serious asthma and have been very close to unconsciousness because of inability to breathe at multiple points in my life. You are wrong. A person can create sound with very small amounts of air that are nowhere near sufficient to sustain life. A person can create sound by expelling air even though their lungs are not absorbing oxygen. You can, with effort, desperately communicate about the fact that you're dying. It is a pretty uniquely awful experience.
posted by crayz at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2014 [45 favorites]


If people were willing to pay taxes commensurate with the level of services they desire, police departments could be more selective in the recruitment/training process, and more aggressive with disciplinary action. Unions wouldn't have to fight so hard to protect their members who, at this point, have job security and not much else.

At this point, we're getting the quality of cops that we're paying for.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:06 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cops across America are using ever-increasing deadly force of one kind or another against people demonstrating even the slightest bit of non-cooperation or hostility of any kind.

This is not categorically true. For example, Bundy Ranch.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

Five fresh fish, exactly. If you can say "I can't breathe" multiple times, that is evidence of breathing. That alone is not damning evidence.

Are you guys really serious? Is that a real response? This is like nitpicking of the highest order.

"Garner said he couldnt breathe, but because he could say something he could breathe, yeah he died but lol so wut, liar"
posted by suedehead at 8:07 AM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


Police body recorders seem to "malfunction" frequently before suspects are brutally assaulted. Either that or the tapes go missing after the fact.

Yes. But I am not sure I understand your argument. Are you saying that since body recorders only prevent many incidents of unnecessary violence and not all, we shouldn't bother with them?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:08 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


The cops job is to get the dude under arrest - no ifs, ands or buts.

I think that this is the type of mentality that a lot of officers approach the whole job with, and it's the fundamental problem with US law enforcement.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:08 AM on July 22, 2014 [26 favorites]


I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

Yes, he just wasn't able to breath enough to remain alive.
posted by spaltavian at 8:09 AM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


The only real way to deal is to just pray the cops never turn their eyes on you.

Step 1: Be white.

Step 2: Don't be not white.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:10 AM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


I had never heard my arms and hands referred to as hamburger shovels before...
posted by 724A at 8:10 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes. But I am not sure I understand your argument. Are you saying that since body recorders only prevent many incidents of unnecessary violence and not all, we shouldn't bother with them?

No, I'm just saying we can't trust the police to monitor themselves because they already have a shoddy history with accountability of their body cameras. Ideally, I'd like to see a third party handle it. With streaming mirrored backups on encrypted servers as someone mentioned upthread.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:10 AM on July 22, 2014


Atreides: "I think it's very obvious that one officer used a choke hold, intentionally or not, on Mr. Garner, but I think the behavior of the police was not exceptionally one of great abuse or excessive force. No one should have died here, but from my perspective, I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command."

Except - NYPD rules say NO CHOKE HOLDS. For precisely this reason - another person died, and back in the 90s no choke hold rule was instituted. Completely violated the protocols and rules. If the cop disobeys a rule as obvious and easy to understand as this, he deserves to be stripped of any sort of rights to be a fucking cop. Ever.
posted by symbioid at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


Yeah, mandatory recorders seem like an excellent idea — it's just that they seem unlikely to be enough. We might as well make those recorders a first step, but ultimately deeper changes in how we handle criminal justice in this country are going to be required.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think that this is the type of mentality that a lot of officers approach the whole job with, and it's the fundamental problem with US law enforcement.

That and the rampant racism, classism, and sadistic abuse of authority that runs wild in nearly every major police department in the US.
posted by item at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Additionally, should footage go mysteriously missing or if it has been unaccountably mangled, all of the "civilians" will be automatically adjudged innocent and all of the police involved automatically guilty.

I mean, if mandatory minimums and whatnot are good enough for the rest of us ...
posted by adipocere at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


Five fresh fish, exactly. If you can say "I can't breathe" multiple times, that is evidence of breathing. That alone is not damning evidence.

That sort of "beep boop I'm a robot" nitpicking and victim blaming is of course one of the reasons cops can murder largely with impunity.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:14 AM on July 22, 2014 [56 favorites]


I had never heard my arms and hands referred to as hamburger shovels before...

I'm guessing you've never been a fat black man in the eyes of the police, either.

Much like Groucho Marx wouldn't be a member of a club that would have him, the folks who are police officers are largely the ones that shouldn't be. Far too many are too enchanted with the power fantasy, rather than the ideal of being a humble civil servant.
posted by explosion at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


No one should have died here, but from my perspective, I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command.

That Force + 1 escalates damn fast.

Since they are completely incompetent at treating him respectfully and talking him down, they work him up further; since they can't handcuff him peacefully, they do it violently; and they use a prohibited maneuver. When he has a dangerous physical reaction to it, they do fucking NOTHING.

Because - as the "cops react" link shows - they are cops and people have to do what they say and they can do anything they want in situations and anything that happens is somebody else's fault for being wrong.
posted by entropone at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


No, I'm just saying we can't trust the police to monitor themselves because they already have a shoddy history with accountability of their body cameras.

You could handle this by making the absence of a recording, or it's malfunction, create an evidentiary presumption against the cop, the same way that if in litigation a party destroys documents that are evidentiary, the opposing party is entitled to have those documents construed against the destroying party. I have no hope of such a thing making it's way into law, but as long as we're dreaming, here.
posted by gauche at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


Yeah. It could be like how refusing to take a breathalyzer test can guarantee DUI conviction in some states. Use of force without body recording guarantees censure to the cop in question.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:18 AM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think at this point we all know that none of the guilty officers will spend a single night behind bars. There might be a job or two lost - boo fucking hoo - but in the end, I'll be shocked if any real justice is involved here.
posted by item at 8:18 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


No one should have died here, but from my perspective, I see it more as a terrible accident than a cop murdering someone for failing to obey a command

"Terrible accident" makes it sound as if this is no one's fault or that the procedures can't be changed to prevent these kinds of deaths in the future. If a public school had procedures in place that regularly resulted in the deaths of students (which just by coincidence tended to result in disproportionately more deaths of low income minority students), the takeaway would not be that the kids should be more careful or that kids were not being murdered intentionally and therefore no one should be outraged. An organization that actually cared about the well-being of the people they interact with would be spending a lot less time trying to downplay this and cover their own asses and more time trying to actually make internal reforms that result in their organization doing less terrible things to people for no reason.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:21 AM on July 22, 2014 [18 favorites]


That and the rampant racism, classism, and sadistic abuse of authority that runs wild in nearly every major police department in the US.

Oh yeah, that too!

You could handle this by making the absence of a recording, or it's malfunction, create an evidentiary presumption against the cop, the same way that if in litigation a party destroys documents that are evidentiary, the opposing party is entitled to have those documents construed against the destroying party. I have no hope of such a thing making it's way into law, but as long as we're dreaming, here.

Yeah, that'd be nice. Actually, maybe also make it a crime for an officer's body cam to malfunction? That would place the responsibility directly in their hands.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2014


What's up with the weird idea about somebody begging for their lives being proof that their lives weren't in danger? It reads as legalistic cruelty: "hmmm yes let me argue about the semantics of a man in a literal chokehold on the internet. this is the best course of action. why if only he said 'i am having trouble breathing' he might have been able to set up a framework for discussion within the context of the law enforcement officer's deontological mindset while he was literally being murdered."
posted by boo_radley at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2014 [45 favorites]


That was hard to watch. The comments in that last link are abominable.

I'm conflicted in my take on this. I've always had an anti-authoritarian streak when it comes to exercise of power for the sake of power. I'm critical of abuses of power (illegal, unsanctioned, disproportionate uses thereof) and troubled by the lack of criticism within law enforcement of those who abuse their power and erode the public trust, because it seems like it would make their jobs (protecting and serving) more difficult.

That said, being a beat cop in a large American city can be dangerous work, and I recognize that discretion can be tricky to apply from one situation to the next. Garner escalates the encounter, so where does that leave the officers? This is a large man who is moving around, clearly agitated, and telling the police "I'm tired of it, it stops today." Is he just angry? Does he have mental health issues? Is he intoxicated? All of those have safety consequences for the man, the officers, and possibly anyone in the near vicinity. Drawing their weapons would have been excessive, but they didn't. They didn't tase him. They didn't attack him with batons. They wrestled him to the ground, and the choke hold seems on the video to be a consequence of subduing someone of his size.

This is tragic because it was avoidable, but I have trouble seeing it as an example of inappropriate and extreme use of force, police brutality, etc.
posted by echocollate at 8:23 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


explosion: "I had never heard my arms and hands referred to as hamburger shovels before...

I'm guessing you've never been a fat black man in the eyes of the police, either...
"

Nope, I am a fat white guy.

If it is true this man was arrested over 30 times, the cops have a history with him and should know that while he is large, he is not violent. He seems to have been willing to play the game; get arrested, get released, pay fine, move on. While there is always a first time for anything, I think the mistakes began with ignoring both the history of this person and the relative significance (zero) of this offense.

Don't these officers have the right to use discretion? Don't they have brains where they can assess the situation, put it into context and take appropriate action?
posted by 724A at 8:25 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


...someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

Yeah, what a liar!

He was just faking his breathing problems so he could get away with crime, people! He probably also faked his heart attack and death just to besmirch the good name of the police.

They ain't falling for that old trick again!
posted by General Tonic at 8:25 AM on July 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


And they wonder why people have less and less respect for cops.
posted by uberchet at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2014


No, they don't wonder. They just don't care.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:27 AM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


They didn't tase him. They didn't attack him with batons. They wrestled him to the ground, and the choke hold seems on the video to be a consequence of subduing someone of his size.

Nah they didnt tase or beat him with sticks. But they did murder him.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:27 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


And why should they when they can outfit themselves as paramilitary organizations?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:27 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Policing by consent. Overhaul this rotten system and rebuild it into something saner. Policing actually can be done without with less casual, amateurish monstrosity.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:37 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


echocollate: "They didn't tase him. They didn't attack him with batons. They wrestled him to the ground, and the choke hold seems on the video to be a consequence of subduing someone of his size."

If, because of his size, they have to use something that is specifically called a "choke hold" on a guy in order to subdue him, then there's your problem right there. Call backup if you have to. Do that thing that the London cops did in the video posted upthread and get 100 of your colleagues to surround the guy like it's the fight scene in the second Matrix movie. But don't defend the choke hold on the grounds that it was the only sensible way to handle someone of his size.

The guy does say "I'm tired of it, it stops today," and if it were a civilian who he said that to, I'd understand if they felt threatened and decided a sharp violence escalation was necessary to resolve the situation. I expect a police officer to use some of the many tools at their disposal to make overwhelming force unnecessary.

(Yes, I'm aware that I'm living in fantasyland.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 8:39 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Garner escalates the encounter, so where does that leave the officers?

Still prohibited from using choke holds on subjects under any circumstances as part of their condition of employment by the NYPD - a state that has been the case for two decades. Deploying a Taser or drawing a sidearm would have been far less extreme, because there are situations in which New York police drawing their weapons is permitted. If they genuinely feared for their lives, then a) they probably need to rethink their career choices and b) they have protocols to deal with that. Those protocols do not involve choke holds.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:49 AM on July 22, 2014 [21 favorites]


If, because of his size, they have to use something that is specifically called a "choke hold" on a guy in order to subdue him, then there's your problem right there. Call backup if you have to. Do that thing that the London cops did in the video posted upthread yt and get 100 of your colleagues to surround the guy like it's the fight scene in the second Matrix movie. But don't defend the choke hold on the grounds that it was the only sensible way to handle someone of his size.

This is one of those things that I think sounds nice in theory, but all of those options are just as problematic in practice. What are the potential consequences of pulling 100 offers off their beats to deal with one person? What if the number of officers doesn't make a difference, and force is still required? How is the situation changed?

I'm not defending the choke-hold as an essential part of the law enforcement toolkit. It appeared to happen as a consequence of the factors in this particular instance, and I hate that it happened and the man died, but I have trouble seeing the measure of force applied as either excessive or unjustified.
posted by echocollate at 8:53 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If killing a guy isn't a excessive, then what would be? Leveling the block?
posted by spaltavian at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


what did the guy do that warranted a chokehold.

seriously. what did he do.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.'

I also have asthma. It was much worse when I was younger, when attacks put me in the hospital.

You can be in respiratory distress and say, "I can't breathe" multiple times. You can choke the words out without a high level of air flow.

Choke holds are insidious because they cause the people placed in them to panic. If you have asthma, you know that it can often be triggered or exacerbated by panic and/or stress. You can't breathe, you panic, your throat and bronchi close up and what may have started out as a light asthma attack may suddenly become an emergency situation. Panic can also trigger or exacerbate cardiac distress. The guy died after being put in a choke hold. That's unlikely to be a coincidence.
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


And for the tenth time, the NYPD if forbidden from ever using chokeholds, so it's always excessive, regardless of the situation.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


The cops job is to get the dude under arrest - no ifs, ands or buts.

The job of the police is to keep the peace. This isn't that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:04 AM on July 22, 2014 [21 favorites]


I'm not defending the choke-hold as an essential part of the law enforcement toolkit. It appeared to happen as a consequence of the factors in this particular instance, and I hate that it happened and the man died, but I have trouble seeing the measure of force applied as either excessive or unjustified.

It's not simply that it's not essential; it's specifically contraindicated for the NYPD. They used a method of subdual that they were told not to use. Compare this to, say, "kicking him in the nuts", which is a bad idea, but they can at least argue that noone told them not to do it.

When your employer says you aren't allowed to do something, and you do it anyway, there need to be consequences to your actions. When you're a cop and you do that, you need to lose qualified immunity. If the NYPD and the city choose then to not take appropriate action after illegal force used by an officer results in the death of a citizen, then it becomes systemic. And that's when people have no faith in the institution itself.

Now look me in the eye and tell me that it's not already systemic.
posted by parliboy at 9:06 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


The cops job is to get the dude under arrest - no ifs, ands or buts.

The cops' job is to protect people. In theory, they are allowed to use limited force in controlled ways in order to do that job. When force becomes an end in itself, when police become motivated by legitimizing and rationalizing ever-increasing amounts of force rather than minimizing the need for it and the risks of using it, they are hurting rather than protecting us.
posted by amery at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


Garner escalates the encounter

I'm calling straight-up bullshit on this one. Garner talks loudly and uses his hands in an animated manner. Those things aren't an escalation, that's just how people act when they feel hassled. Throwing punches is an escalation. Shoving someone is an escalation. Insulting a police officer is an escalation. Dude is expressing frustration, not doing anything that should have made the officers swarm and choke him to death.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2014 [28 favorites]


I've been beaten up by criminals, and I've been beaten up by cops.

I'm more frightened of the cops. They know they can kill you and get away with it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [21 favorites]


When you're on a power trip, like most bad cops, just complying isn't enough. They want to see fear in your eyes.
posted by cazoo at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been beaten up by criminals, and I've been beaten up by cops.

It's a thin blue line indeed.
posted by Fuzzypumper at 9:16 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Garner escalates the encounter, so where does that leave the officers?

It leaves them with the task of de-escalating the encounter? I'm constantly wondering, when I see these kinds of incidents, what is the freaking rush? The cop has somewhere to be that he can't just back off for a bit, let things settle?
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:19 AM on July 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


> I am not on the cops side on this. However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

This is one of the shittier comments I've read here. There are lots of incidents where people are jerks and say mean things, but this one is notable for its smugness and blithe nit-picking in the presence of a man's death.

I know it's been well responded to already, and apologies if I'm just continuing a derail, but this one is sticking in my craw.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:24 AM on July 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


The trouble is that people will pull shit to get out of trouble. The cops job is to get the dude under arrest - no ifs, ands or buts. In that framework, then, there is no allowance for "I can't breathe" because it has no bearing on whether to arrest him and N+1 does not allow for de-escalation until after he's been secured.

Why do they have to have him under arrest immediately? He does not appear to be a danger to anyone. He is not violent, nor has a history of violence. He does not appear to be a flight risk, in the bigger sense; they basically know where he lives and hangs out, and he does have not history of taking off to avoid charges. They can take all the time they want, tack on some resisting arrest charges, and eventually get him in. He does not need to be "taken down". This idea that a 'perp' gotta be handled, right here, right now often lies at the bottom of many of these incidents.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:25 AM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


BitterOldPunk: "I've been beaten up by criminals, and I've been beaten up by cops."

How can you tell the difference?
posted by 724A at 9:27 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


The job of the police is to keep the peace. This isn't that.

The cops' job is to protect people.

The mission of the NYPD:
The MISSION of the New York City Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in our City by working in partnership with the community and in accordance with constitutional rights to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment.

VALUES

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY, WE PLEDGE TO:

* Protect the lives and property of our fellow citizens and impartially enforce the law.
* Fight crime both by preventing it and by aggressively pursuing violators of the law.
* Maintain a higher standard of integrity than is generally expected of others because so much is expected of us.
* Value human life, respect the dignity of each individual and render our services with courtesy and civility.

posted by zarq at 9:30 AM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Interesting that "aggressively pursuing violations of the law" seems to interfere with the "higher standard of integrity."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:31 AM on July 22, 2014


Garner escalates the encounter

I'm having trouble determining how he "escalated" the encounter other than by not immediately wetting himself and curling up into a fetal position the minute the cops approached him. He was very vocal, and he made some animated gestures, but even after the cops grab him, you can clearly see that he's trying to de-escalate the situation -- note that he puts his hands up, palms outward, as he's choked rather than immediately trying to pry the officer off or push away the other officers.

What adds to this tragedy is that the person who filmed the video claims that rather than selling cigarettes illegally, what Garner had done in the moments before the officers' arrival was to break up a fight.

Talk about no good deed going unpunished.

.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:33 AM on July 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Unless you're a danger to people (including yourself and/or the police) or have committed a very serious crime, the police should not be able to physically touch you. I understand that the police operate in a world of violence, in which they are frequently threatened by it and must offer violence on occasion in return, but the whole system is so geared towards violence that it enters situation where it does not belong. Even before the assault shown here, the police were trying to put the handcuffs on this guy. Forcing handcuffs on someone is quite extreme. It's a kind of degrading assault that's so become so normal we don't even think of it. I don't believe handcuffs should ever be involved when the police are dealing with someone who poses a danger to no one. It's just outrageous that this is considered reasonable punishment for someone (very much allegedly) selling loose cigarettes.
posted by cincinnatus c at 9:33 AM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


He does not appear to be a danger to anyone. He is not violent, nor has a history of violence.

You should watch more episodes of "Cops". If you're uncooperative they're going to take you down or tazer you. Is it right? No. Is it what happens? Yes. The past couple of seasons they pretty much filmed exclusively in Rialto.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 9:33 AM on July 22, 2014


what did the guy do that warranted a chokehold.

seriously. what did he do.


He failed to cooperate with the local army of occupation.

The penalty is death.
posted by Pudhoho at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2014 [19 favorites]


He can't watch more episodes of 'Cops' because he's dead.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is NYPD 101, business as usual.

The only difference is there's video, and we finally have a supposedly progressive administration.

New York is watching you, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Commissioner and Mr. District Attorney. This guy goes to jail for hard time or you're full of shit just like the previous regimes were.

There is no room for debate. There is visual evidence of what happened. Answer for it.
posted by spitbull at 9:46 AM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


General Tonic: "He was just faking his breathing problems so he could get away with crime, people! He probably also faked his heart attack and death just to besmirch the good name of the police.

They ain't falling for that old trick again!
"

It makes me wonder what happens when a cop orders you to not die while they're beating you and tasing you and choking you... What are the consequences of disobeying?
posted by symbioid at 9:50 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you're uncooperative they're going to take you down or tazer you. Is it right? No. Is it what happens? Yes.

So we put ramifications in place (like loss of qualified immunity) that incentivize the police not to act this way. The police serve the people, not the other way around.
posted by sallybrown at 9:52 AM on July 22, 2014


It leaves them with the task of de-escalating the encounter? I'm constantly wondering, when I see these kinds of incidents, what is the freaking rush? The cop has somewhere to be that he can't just back off for a bit, let things settle?

The NYPD has refused to implement he Memphis Model for dealing with people in emotional distress-- the model includes extensive training in de-escalation techniques--that is widely used in other jurisdictions (recent FPP on the Memphis Model). They've refused for at least 20 years. While Mr. Garner was not the type of person the Memphis Model is geared toward, the aggressive, violent culture of the NYPD caused his death and the death of many others. I was not happy with Bratton's appointment due to his first tenure in NYC, but a form of the Memphis Model was implemented in LA while Bratton was commissioner there. I guess this is where we find out if anything will change.
posted by Mavri at 9:57 AM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


So we put ramifications in place (like loss of qualified immunity) that incentivize the police not to act this way.

Don't most PD forces have an Internal Affairs division?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 9:58 AM on July 22, 2014


playertobenamedlater: "So we put ramifications in place (like loss of qualified immunity) that incentivize the police not to act this way.

Don't most PD forces have an Internal Affairs division?
"

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA IAB?

hahaha....
posted by symbioid at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


If killing a guy isn't a excessive, then what would be? Leveling the block?

An officer stubbing his toe.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:12 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't most PD forces have an Internal Affairs division?

A broom, a rug and a spin team.
posted by Pudhoho at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


HAHAHAHAHAHAHA IAB?

A broom, a rug and a spin team.


Hey I never said they actually worked or should be taken seriously (they shouldn't), just that they have the facade of investigating improprieties.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 10:17 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


officer safety is FAR more important than public perception.

Heroes.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:19 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) is an independent city agency, with subpoena power. It is not part of the police department. We handle complaints about four kinds of alleged police misconduct:

1. Force: this refers to the use of excessive or unnecessary force; behavior that includes punching, shoving or choking a civilian, using pepper spray and up to and including the use of deadly force.

2. Abuse of Authority: this refers to abuse of police powers to intimidate or mistreat a civilian; for example, an officer’s refusal to provide name and badge number, an improper strip search or vehicle stop and search, or an improper “stop, question and frisk.”

3. Discourtesy: this refers to cursing and using other foul language or gestures.

4. Offensive Language: this refers to slurs and derogatory remarks or gestures based upon race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or physical disability.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:20 AM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's sad that I look at that 4 point list and it reads to me like the NYPD's handbook for all standard interaction with members of the public.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on July 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ahhh the nature of surveillance everywhere. Too bad cameras seem to fail when they could have captured something, darn technology.

As if the default position is that cops are always right and must be obeyed,

The position of Bad Elk started getting eroded in the 1960's - in the rear view mirror it looks like a reaction to them thar damn hippies. This copblock link covers some history including Bad Elk.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2014


As has been noted above, fuck tha police. The police are not your friend.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:55 AM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


However, someone who can say "I can't breathe" nine times is obviously able to breathe.

And being alive is typically associated with breathing.

How does breathing/not breathing translate to 'acceptable conduct' for people who are given the power to decide who lives and dies because of their job?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2014


The cops job is to get the dude under arrest - no ifs, ands or buts.

The cops' job is to protect and serve. They fucking failed miserably. CRIMINALLY.
posted by disconnect at 11:08 AM on July 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


Come on now, they served a heaping plate of JUSTICE!
posted by symbioid at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2014


If we outlaw breathing, only outlaws will breathe!
posted by symbioid at 11:26 AM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


> The cops job is to get the dude under arrest

They changed the rules on motor vehicle pursuits because they were causing more harm than letting people go. Maybe it's time for this "stop resisting while I bludgeon you" attitude to go, too. Back off and let the guy rant. Give up on figuring out who was fighting on BART and let 'em go home & enjoy their New Year's.
posted by morganw at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Some of the most impressive policing I've seen was a block from the White House by a MPD cop. He was talking to a disheveled man and when I came by he was saying politely but firmly and loudly, "You need to leave." He repeated that several dozen times. Each time in the same voice; no quieter, no louder. He was close to the man, but not in his face. In control, but not aggressive. After several minutes, the man left peacefully.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:49 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:45 PM on July 22, 2014


Ok, some notes.

If a licensed police officer within their jurisdiction identifies themselves as police and tells you that you're under arrest, and the arrest is lawful, you do have to comply and they are authorized to use reasonable force to arrest you. The exact wording varies from state to state, I'm sure, but that's the general rule.

This particular person had a history of the exact offense he was being arrested for. In my state, if someone is unlikely to respond to a citation, that's justification to arrest for a misdemeanor. It's reasonable to believe that this guy was very unlikely to respond to a citation.

The officers spent several minutes talking with the guy, trying to verbally convince him to comply. He refused. At some point you need to use force to effect a lawful arrest, which I think this probably was. Should they have talked for another ten minutes? Twenty? Sixty?

I think the ME will have to do a good evaluation of the guy's throat. The cop in the green shirt did have a forearm across the front of his throat, but it's hard to tell if enough force was applied there to be relevant to the death or if it was a combination of exertion, asthma, and positional asphyxiation. I don't know if NYPD uses or trains with what is sometimes called a neck restraint, but if they do, he may have been trying for that and screwed it up. I don't know. The idea of the neck restraint is to apply pressure to the sides of the throat to reduce bloodflow to the brain and put someone out without applying any pressure to the front of the throat.

That said, in my decidedly unexpert opinion which could definitely be wrong, panic, exertion, and positional asphyxia seem like the more likely causes. The arm was around his neck for 10-20 seconds.

All the videos I can find have been edited, so the timeline is impossible to tell. It seems to me that once the cuffs are on they pretty quickly put him on his side, which is called "the recovery position." It's a standard practice for addressing positional asphyxia. That's what you're seeing when you see several minutes of video of cops holding him on his side.

When the EMTs get there, they check his pulse pretty quickly, and she doesn't look like someone that just checked for a pulse and didn't get one, but it's hard to know. And then right after they put him on the stretcher, the person recording video asks why no one's doing CPR, and they answer "because he's breathing." And no matter how much you think police lie, I have a hard time believing an EMT gets on a scene, finds someone without respiration or a pulse, and does anything other than CPR.

Anyway. The force used looks reasonable to me (no strikes, used the force necessary to control and cuff him), with the exception of the forearm across the front of the throat (but again, it seems likely to me that that was immaterial in his death). The cops took action to avoid positional asphyxia. The EMTs got there and found him breathing and with a pulse.

It really is a tragedy that the man died. But the actions of the police and EMTs here (again, with the possible exception of pressure on the front of the throat) all look reasonable to me, and the man was alive when he went into the ambulance.

P1 comment sections are... often not great, but there is variety there.
posted by kavasa at 2:51 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


The cop in the green shirt did have a forearm across the front of his throat, but it's hard to tell if enough force was applied there to be relevant to the death or if it was a combination of exertion, asthma, and positional asphyxiation.

The cop's forearm across the front of his throat is precisely the problem. It was not allowed to be there.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:55 PM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


I get what you're saying, but I think it was probably a misapplied neck restraint. I also think we'd need an ME report saying his trachea had been crushed before we could blame the death on that. I think that's unlikely, because the arm came off his throat as soon as they were on the ground and he was immediately able to say things once it came off. Finally, he was breathing and had a pulse when he went in the ambulance. It would be tough for both of those things to be true if his trachea had been crushed eight or ten minutes prior.
posted by kavasa at 3:00 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


It really is a tragedy that the man died. But the actions of the police and EMTs here (again, with the possible exception of pressure on the front of the throat) all look reasonable to me, and the man was alive when he went into the ambulance.

It might be defined as reasonable according to police rulebooks - and this I assume must be what you use as the definition of reasonable yourself - but it doesn't look reasonable to me. Multiple guys forcing one guy to the ground, choking him and trying to put handcuffs round his wrists looks like ridiculous force to apply against someone selling loose cigarettes. I'm in no position to know whether these people went beyond what they were permitted to do, but I do know that what police are permitted to do is in any case outrageous. Someone selling loose cigarettes ought to be no business of the police, and they certainly shouldn't be allowed to use any kind of force to prevent it.
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:14 PM on July 22, 2014


Who said anything about a crushed trachea?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:16 PM on July 22, 2014


I don't know if NYPD uses or trains with what is sometimes called a neck restraint, but if they do, he may have been trying for that and screwed it up. I don't know.

If you mean the lateral vascular neck restraint, then if they do they don't get that training from the National Law Enforcement Training Center, so I would say probably not. Especially as the NYPD patrol guide does not limit chokehold to mean a hold that constricts the throat, and, as we have discussed repeatedly in this thread, chokeholds have not been allowed since 1993 in the NYPD.

This is all open source information, and is pretty easy to obtain. I have no idea where you're getting "crushed trachea" from, but that is not and has never been the standard the NYPD applies to whether or not something is a chokehold.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:17 PM on July 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


Police body recorders seem to "malfunction" frequently before suspects are brutally assaulted. Either that or the tapes go missing after the fact.

Make missing footage a presumption of guilt.

But stories like this make me sick. I hate brutes, but in the US, it is always a black person. In Canada, the cops do that to everybody -- blacks, whites, little old ladies -- sort of Hell's definition of Equal Opportunity...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:33 PM on July 22, 2014


Should they have talked for another ten minutes? Twenty? Sixty?

Seeing as how we have proof that these are the kind of cops who will choke a person to death for allegedly selling single cigarettes, then they should've talked for another infinity minutes. A man's life is worth 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and 60 minutes. Definitely, always, 100% of the time.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2014 [32 favorites]


Every asshole who is thrown to the ground by the cops during arrest claims to be unable to breathe. You see it time and time and time again in videos. No one ever believes it: it's just an asshole hoping to escape if the cops ease off.

The cops certainly contributed massively to this guy's death, but it wasn't because he suffocated from a momentary misapplied hold.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:42 PM on July 22, 2014


"Contributed massively" is certainly an interesting euphemism for "caused."
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:53 PM on July 22, 2014 [13 favorites]


Man is tackled and thrown to ground. Held there by multiple men on top of him. Pleads that he can't breathe. Men holding them there do nothing. Man dies.

What an asshole!
posted by spaltavian at 4:58 PM on July 22, 2014


Every asshole who is thrown to the ground by the cops during arrest claims to be unable to breathe. You see it time and time and time again in videos. No one ever believes it: it's just an asshole hoping to escape if the cops ease off.

Separated at Birth...
posted by Pudhoho at 5:57 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every asshole who is thrown to the ground by the cops during arrest claims to be unable to breathe. You see it time and time and time again in videos. No one ever believes it: it's just an asshole hoping to escape if the cops ease off.

Where was this man going? He was overweight or obese, surrounded by cops, and unarmed.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:15 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Who said anything about a crushed trachea?"

Well, because we have people saying things like this:

"Seeing as how we have proof that these are the kind of cops who will choke a person to death for allegedly selling single cigarettes"

I mean, the arm is around his neck for about 19 seconds. Once he's fully down on the ground, the cop comes off his neck which is when he starts saying "I can't breathe". And again, at least 10 minutes after that, he was still breathing.

So if you say he was choked to death, I can't imagine that you're saying anything other than "he suffered some fatal trauma in those 19 seconds," and the only thing I can think of there is a crushed trachea. I'm not playing rhetorical tricks, I'm trying to come up with an explanation of events that would fit with the interpretation here.

running order - what's the relevance of the national law enforcement training center? I googled them, they seem to be a place that trains trainers. So a department sends their defensive tactics instructors there to learn how to train the patrol cops back home.

I'm actually also surprised at how difficult it is to find this patrol guide. I'm used to the policy manual being posted on the public website. All I could find was this page of excerpts from it on NPR. It has this to say:
Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT use chokeholds. A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.
Which could easily leave holds where you apply force to the sides of the neck.

It's tough to articulate, because I think the arm across the throat is pretty unmistakably out of policy, but I also don't think it's why he died. I think that as soon as he was cuffed and they saw he was unconscious they rolled EMS and took the appropriate response for an unconscious, but still breathing person. EMS checked pulse and breathing and put him on a stretcher. He dies at some point after that from a cause we are not yet aware of.

On preview, see, people are saying they "did nothing" because they don't have any training to recognize what it is that they actually did. Further that the action they took was the correct action with the information they had (you don't do CPR on someone with a pulse who's breathing).

Other alternatives suggested are "don't arrest him," which, ok? But I explained above the likely reasoning behind making an arrest here. I really don't think it was an unreasonable arrest, given the history.

So, again, it really sucks. But it's also a long way to go from the video we've seen to "NYPD are thugs who murdered this dude in cold blood in reprisal for breaking up a fight".
posted by kavasa at 6:46 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Anyway, possibly also relevant, Cecily McMillan was recently released from Rykers. There's an interview with her here. I don't know about anyone else, but I for one feel less safe knowing that she's back on the streets.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:18 PM on July 22, 2014


Just to reiterate this fact over and fucking over in case it wasn't GOD DAMNED CLEAR...

five fresh fish: "The cops certainly contributed massively to this guy's death, but it wasn't because he suffocated from a momentary BANNED misapplied hold."

ANY hold is misapplied, because ANY choke hold in NYC is BANNED by OFFICIAL POLICE DOCTRINE.

How the fuck hard is this to understand? I don't give a goddamned shit if you want to defend the fucking pigs for doing what they did, but this is 100% abso-fucking-lutely against protocol. How hard is that for you to grok. Either you're OK with the police breaking protocol, and then when a man dies, the police get off the hook and no problemo which means, keep me the fuck away from your utopian State. Or you believe in the rule of law, and that rule of law MUST apply to those who claim to uphold it. I realize cops get away with a LOT of crap, because of a very wide berth of deference to apply the law as they see fit while performing their duties...

OK, let's pretend that there is a certain level of judiciousness granted to the police to engage in extreme measures in the line of their job, a job that allows them to generally kill when they feel the least bit threatened and then allowed to get off with what amounts to a slap on the wrist. But most of these applications of force are still within the purview of their law enforcement duties, and the official policy is to allow them leeway to make the decision of when and how to apply (apparently) needed force.

The choke hold is no such matter in NYC. Other jurisdictions, it might be A-OK to chokehold someone, to death or just a teeny little bit, but it is absolutely verboten by the force. Period. This isn't an allowable tactic. It's not a stun gun that we the public think was used in a situation it shouldn't have been used, but is still an allowable tool in the officer's arsenal. Nope. A choke hold is NOT an allowed tool in that arsenal, so no matter how much you try to justify it and say the officer was within his rights to do what he did, you are wrong. Morally, to those of us who abhor such an action, and, if not legally, certainly procedurally (since, AFAIK it's an internal department rule, not a city statute or state law of some type)...
posted by symbioid at 7:28 PM on July 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Someone selling loose cigarettes ought to be no business of the police,

They should only enforce laws you think are important ? The guy was stealing tax money from the state and business from the stores he was working in front of. I agree, he didn't need to die, and the cops went too far arresting him. Still, getting hassled by the cops is what happens when you break the law - especially as often and as flagrantly as he did.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


[One comment deleted; introducing a charged analogy is not going to be helpful here.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:37 PM on July 22, 2014


God i don't want to derail this too much, but in reading this thread and favoriting comments it started occurring to me...

What if, at some point, i'm in court or something and i get asked "So you've favorited comments saying things like "fuck the police" 498 times, is that a position or opinion you hold?".

I'm almost afraid to publicly comment on how angry this stuff makes me anymore, and that in and of itself makes me really fucking weep for the future of this country and the state of society.
posted by emptythought at 8:22 PM on July 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Lots of black Twitter folks sharing stories about Staten Island cops' habitual harassment of nonwhite citizens...constant searches and stops, and other humiliations.
posted by emjaybee at 8:23 PM on July 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every asshole who is thrown to the ground by the cops during arrest claims to be unable to breathe. You see it time and time and time again in videos. No one ever believes it: it's just an asshole hoping to escape if the cops ease off.

What do we lose by assuming they're serious every time? What do we gain by ignoring them, other than the typical buttheaded "oh they're obviously not serious hit them harder because they're being a whiner" mindset?

Advocating for ignoring these cries of pain reminds me of an abusive parents mindset, hit the kid because they're "lying" and "whining". If you go in assuming someones cries of pain are false by default, you're going to harm more people than you're going to "justly punish" for faking, which is a fucked up punitive mindset in and of itself.

What would best benefit the most number of people if these cops, who are theoretically supposed to be protecting us, handled this one way or the other? Because i see a clear win for "We don't have any previous info on the health status of this person, let's assume that we are in fact harming them, back off, and ask if they need medical assistance".

I mean this is really one of the instances where some fucking compassion would make the world a better place.

And additionally, beyond what was argued here that he was a large guy who wasn't going to be running like sonic the hedgehog the instant he hopped up, there were plenty of cops there to easily restrain him if he tried anything. Squeezing harder when someone cries out in distress is the move of a vindictive bully.

Honestly, so is saying that someone who cries out is always lying and no one believes it.
posted by emptythought at 8:41 PM on July 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


I just got home so did not read through all the last few hours' comments, but here is a link to a NY Daily News article where the Police Commissioner orders retraining of all cops and pretty much admits it was excessive force.
posted by 724A at 8:55 PM on July 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


They should only enforce laws you think are important ? The guy was stealing tax money from the state and business from the stores he was working in front of.

If the NYPD wants to stop people stealing money from the state and beggaring local economies, they should head on over to Broad and Wall.

We enforce laws selectively all the time. Why was it so important to enforce the law so assiduously and violently in this particular case?

I agree, he didn't need to die, and the cops went too far arresting him. Still, getting hassled by the cops is what happens when you break the law - especially as often and as flagrantly as he did.

Garner didn't get 'hassled by the cops'. He got killed by the cops.
posted by amery at 9:24 PM on July 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


They should only enforce laws you think are important ?

Yes? I mean, they already do. For example, we don't see cops arresting people for adultery, which is still technically a crime in New York.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:26 PM on July 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


[One comment removed; feel free to repost without driving this toward a personal one-on-one fight. Everyone, please stick to discussing the situation rather than other posters. If people want to be able to discuss tough topics here, you need to be able to keep it civil / self-regulate.]
posted by taz at 12:55 AM on July 23, 2014


I mean, the arm is around his neck for about 19 seconds.

The choke actually changes during the takedown. It begins as a modified rear-naked (00:38) with the supporting arm underhooking Garner's shoulder for bodily control. Once they hit the ground the officer's body weight is on top, which itself restricts movement of the diaphragm. At this point the officer readjusts and pulls the underhook out (00:44), clasping his choking and supporting palms together in a Gable grip. This grip allows for significantly more force to be applied to the throat as opposed to the initial weird modified position. They then roll to the side (00:48) where the the choke is held until the supporting arm is released (00:51) first, and then the choking arm second (00:54).

By my count some kind of choke was happening for 14 seconds. To an untrained, unfit or otherwise unprepared person, this sort of assault could easily trigger a panic response. I've seen it happen in the gym plenty of times.
posted by troll at 1:08 AM on July 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


14 seconds.

16*
posted by troll at 1:14 AM on July 23, 2014


I wrote and recorded a song about the murder. I posted it to Metafilter Music. It's called Eric Garner Is Dead.

Hope you'll give it a listen.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:15 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:11 AM on July 23, 2014


From that Daily News article:

“This department clearly needs to do more training,” said Bratton, adding that he anticipates “a retraining of every member of the New York Police Department.” To that end, he plans to dispatch a team to look at using the Los Angeles Police Department’s “state-of-the-art” training as a template.

I... would be interested to meet and talk with anyone who was reassured by that statement.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:25 AM on July 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jesus, what a tragedy.

This happened two weeks ago at my house: I live off Route 95 outside of Boston. Our driveway is the first one off the highway. We get a fair amount of people pulling in to do a U-turn and get to the opposite direction of 95.

A few years ago there was an armed bank robbery, and the thief, pursued by at least 5 police cars, pulled into my driveway, ran out of the car and into the neighborhood, with at least 10 police officers pursuing him on foot, guns drawn.

I'm setting the stage as thus: the police know that people pull into my driveway and they often have a patrol car sitting there.

Ok. So two weeks ago, a dark-skinned male pulled into my driveway while my son was home, got out of his car and started trying to open the front door. Then the back door. Then he started trying to open windows.

My son called the police and within 30 seconds, four police cars came tearing into our driveway.

The unknown man had returned to his car and was standing outside of it, just looking at my house.

The police yelled at the man to put his hands where they could see them.

And the man looked at them, reached into his pocket, and began pulling out a black object.

The police screamed, "PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM! DROP YOUR WEAPON! DROP IT!!!"

The man continued to pull something black out of his pocket.

The police at this point were getting into some kind of position, behind open car doors, all aiming their guns at the man.

The police yelled, "FREEZE!"

And the man's hand stopped, halfway in his pocket, holding part of something black. He let go of what was in his hand and raised his hands in the air.

Four police swarmed on him and tackled him to the ground, one officer holding his revolver over the man. The man struggled. FOUR POLICE officers were trying to subdue this one guy, who was thrashing and screaming, "GET OFF ME! GET OFF ME!"

They eventually overtook him, handcuffed him and got him to his feet.

A police officer carefully reached into the man's pocket for the black object.

It was a cellphone. And he was a handyman hired by my landlord to work on some broken window screens. He thought the house would be left open for him.

So what I'm saying is...what those cops in NY did was wrong. Dead wrong. Just, inexcusably wrong.

And I also cannot imagine what it's like to have a job where any conceivable moment, somebody could kill you. These cops were trying to protect my son and my house and for all they knew, this guy was about to shoot them. The police in my situation were completely safe, but they didn't know that in the moment. For all they knew, they were about to be shot and they acted accordingly. The perp continued reaching for what could have been a gun. They could have been fired upon and potentially dead within seconds.

I think living with that heightened a sense of personal danger has got to mess you up. It's got to screw with your perception. I would think that you see danger where none exists, where you would overreact to situations, and where you would, absolutely, kill someone because you freaked the fuck out, such is your heightened sense of personal danger.

I can see where being a cop would just mess you up.
posted by kinetic at 6:24 AM on July 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah - although that anecdote also serves as a data point regarding another group who may be living under a heightened sense of personal danger - black men in America, who seem to be at a statistically peculiar risk of being killed, both by the police and indeed by regular citizens who can do so with relative impunity if they do it in the right state and ensure there are no witnesses.

That gets into a chicken and egg scenario, I think. If you have reason to believe that your chances of surviving what would otherwise be a routine arrest are going to be negatively impacted by factors beyond your control, then its going to be a lot harder to stay totally calm and compliant throughout that process. Which then increases the odds that the police will respond to your panic reaction with force that might be seen as excessive, and might turn out to be fatal.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:36 AM on July 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


The cop who administered the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, has been the defendant in two previous civil suits. One was settled with a $30k payout to the plaintiffs, the other is still open.

Anybody else want to keep defending this guy? I sure wouldn't.
posted by palomar at 7:53 AM on July 23, 2014 [12 favorites]



"Who said anything about a crushed trachea?"

Well, because we have people saying things like this:

"Seeing as how we have proof that these are the kind of cops who will choke a person to death for allegedly selling single cigarettes"

I mean, the arm is around his neck for about 19 seconds. Once he's fully down on the ground, the cop comes off his neck which is when he starts saying "I can't breathe". And again, at least 10 minutes after that, he was still breathing.

So if you say he was choked to death, I can't imagine that you're saying anything other than "he suffered some fatal trauma in those 19 seconds," and the only thing I can think of there is a crushed trachea. I'm not playing rhetorical tricks, I'm trying to come up with an explanation of events that would fit with the interpretation here.


I'm the one who said "Seeing as how we have proof that these are the kind of cops who will choke a person to death...". Just to be clear, when I wrote that sentence, I wasn't suggesting that they crushed his trachea, I was suggesting that he was choked and the choking caused his death. I refuse to listen to any nonsense that a trachea has to have anything to do with whether a man was choked to death or not.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:05 AM on July 23, 2014


And I also cannot imagine what it's like to have a job where any conceivable moment, somebody could kill you

The last time I did a back of the envelope calculation of cops' risk of being shot, stabbed, or otherwise murdered on the job, it turned out to be pretty close to the overall risk of homicide in the US.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:16 AM on July 23, 2014




The last time I did a back of the envelope calculation of cops' risk of being shot, stabbed, or otherwise murdered on the job, it turned out to be pretty close to the overall risk of homicide in the US.

I think this is probably true, but what I mean is that as a police officer, you're probably working most shifts with the perception that at any moment, you could be hurt. And I would imagine that over time, that perception begins to color your judgment where you could begin to perceive danger where none exists, to where you overreact.

I'm not saying it's right. But I cannot help but wonder if it's accurate. I could be wrong about this, it's just a theory.
posted by kinetic at 9:24 AM on July 23, 2014


I think that's a pretty logical thing for us to deduce and also for them to feel, but that heightened risk is lessened when they take off that uniform, or when they change careers or retire. That very same feeling, that fear, the knowledge that deadly violence directed specifically at you could happen at literally any time, is not something that PoC men like Garner can ever remove like a uniform or retire from one day; that's with them til they day they die. And in those cases it's state sanctioned violence for which the perpetrators will not only rarely be punished but for which they will also likely be celebrated by their peers.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


For those of you on Facebook, there's a Justice For Eric Garner page you might want to support by giving it a like.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:28 PM on July 23, 2014


The officers spent several minutes talking with the guy, trying to verbally convince him to comply. He refused. At some point you need to use force to effect a lawful arrest, which I think this probably was. Should they have talked for another ten minutes? Twenty? Sixty?

However long it takes to avoid killing another human being.

From the NYPD's own guidelines:

The New York State Penal Law, for its part, allows an officer to use physical force only when he or she “reasonably believes such to be necessary” to effect arrest, prevent escape, or defend a person or property from harm. And the state limits an officer’s ability to exercise deadly physical force even further—Penal Law §35.30(1) provides that police may only use deadly physical force against a subject in three very specific instances:

1) When the subject has committed or is attempting to commit a felony and is using or about to use physical force against a person, or when the subject has committed or is attempting to commit kidnapping, arson, escape, or burglary;

2) When an armed felon resists arrest or flees; and

3) When the use of deadly physical force is necessary to defend any person from “what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.”


So, even if choke holds were allowed, which they are not, the police officers had no basis to use deadly force, just because arresting someone takes too long or they are resisting arrest.
posted by inertia at 11:40 AM on July 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


No Do the Right Thing references? Too soon?

Well, for comparison's sake here's a story about a stalker on probation who resisted arrest by standing in a pond for half an hour. Somehow deputies refrained from killing him.

I honestly wasn't expecting to see so much "yeah but" in this thread. Ah well.

*re-calibrates cynicism*
posted by tyro urge at 3:38 PM on July 24, 2014




But several qualified medical examiners in this thread assured us that was impossible!
posted by spaltavian at 1:41 PM on August 4, 2014 [8 favorites]




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