There have been a lot of cases lately where a police officer is accused of misusing force in the line of duty, then walking on the charge. People died and no one was punished.
To be sure, some of those officers followed procedure and did the right thing so they should walk. Still others appear awfully questionable to outsiders.
A prime example of that is the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after NYPD officers placed him in a chokehold. Garner was selling cigarettes illegally and resisted arrest. However, it also looked like the officer may have failed to follow correct procedure.
Now, that officer is out of a job.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced in the city on Monday that Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold after he resisted arrest on July 17, 2014, has been fired. O’Neill said Pantaleo had the choice to release the chokehold, but chose not to.
“Therefore, Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer,” O’Neill said.
It is an immediate termination, the commissioner explained. O’Neill expects that many people will disagree with his decision, but he believes it was the right one based on court testimony and evidence.
O’Neill was somber throughout the press conference, reminding folks that being a police officer is “the hardest job in the world” in which cops have to make split second decisions that are then examined and scrutinized by people who have much more time to consider the decision.
A police officer’s choices are “examined, scrutinized and second guessed – both fairly and unfairly,” O’Neill noted.
O’Neill isn’t wrong. Police operate inside of a fishbowl. Every mistake is a potential newsworthy event while their everyday successes are missed or ignored.
But on the same token, police almost have to be held to a higher standard. They’re human, but they’re also given significant power. They’re given authority to initiate force where you or I wouldn’t be able to do so. As a result, they’re expected to use that force appropriately.
What was found was that Pantaleo failed in that regard.
Look, I’m not overly well versed in what happened with Eric Garner. I remember the case and remember it happening shortly after Michael Brown, a case where the officer was clearly acting appropriately. I also recall my initial reaction being to side with the officer because, well, when you’re being bombarded with anti-police BS on a regular basis, you tend to dismiss claims out of hand.
However, in this case, my initial reaction appears to have been wrong. Pantaleo apparently did overstep. He did apparently use force inappropriately.
Now, to be clear, officers have to do what they have to do when making an arrest. Garner didn’t have to resist arrest either, which may be why Pantaleo is simply looking for a new job rather than looking at a prison sentence. At least some culpability needs to rest with the suspect in a case like this.
Still, it’s a good reminder that even police officers are required to act appropriately, something the media is fond of pretending doesn’t happen.