Thursday, February 7, 2019

Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Veteran Criticizes NYC PBA President, Says P.O. Daniel Pantaleo Must Be Held Accountable

The following statement was submitted by a 22-year law enforcement official who serves in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. His name is being concealed in order to protect him from retribution.


I am writing in response to the New York City Police Benevolent Association president’s statements concerning the Eric Garner case. Please bear with me, as parts of my statement are excerpts from various media publications, mostly the New York Times. 

Mr. Lynch said:

“The officers involved did not hit with their fists or batons, nor did they draw their weapons to gain compliance. Mr. Garner was taken to the ground using the minimum amount of force by employing a maneuver taught in the police academy that has been used countless times with no negative physical impact on the arrestees. Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo did nothing wrong and should not be on trial for doing his job the way he was trained to do it.”

A New York Times article published November 24, 1993, stated that Chief John F. Timoney and ‘other experts’ made the statement... "New York City has not trained police cadets in the use of choke holds for at least 10 years." The article also goes on to say, "In that city (Los Angeles) between 1977 and 1982, 16 people died in cases in which the choke hold was used -- said James J. Fyfe, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and a former city police officer who has studied police brutality."

I may be incorrect, but does the statement by Chief Timoney contradict Lynch's claim that “Officer Pantaleo did his job the way he was trained to do it.”

Now, as I understand it, in 1993 a policy was implemented by the NYPD for a ban on the use of chokehold techniques. The Times article further stated, "Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly characterized the ban not as a new policy but as clarification of a 1985 order. That order said that "choke holds, which are potentially lethal and unnecessary, will not be routinely used." An exception was when an officer's life was in danger and the choke hold was the "least dangerous alternative method of restraint." The new policy allows no exceptions.

Chief Timoney said the city policy specifically did not distinguish between various types of holds, but rather banned them categorically. It also prohibited other restraints or tactics -- like standing on a suspect's chest or transporting a suspect in a face-down position -- which might impede breathing. "Basically, stay the hell away from the neck," he said. "That's what it says."

Again, as I understand the statement, it says this policy was placed as a clarification to an order issued in 1985. Mr. Lynch also stated that this technique "has been used countless times with no negative physical impact on the arrestees." I wonder, is he referring to arrestees in New York City or in general; because the Times article also reported that 16 people died from the use of the choke hold in a five-year span. That doesn’t present a very positive picture in my mind. I guess it would have to be more than 16 deaths to be classified as having a negative physical impact, as far as he is concerned.

Joseph Mancini, a spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the union opposed the ban because it could endanger the life of an officer trying to subdue a dangerous suspect. He also called it a method of "last resort," and as such he said officers rarely used it.

"A choke hold can be lethal," Mr. Mancini said, "but to prevent a cop from using it when it is necessary force is to take a weapon away from a cop that he or she might need to protect his or her life or the life of an innocent bystander."

Having served in law enforcement for many years, I completely understand and agree with the statement made by Mr. Mancini: “to prevent a cop from using it when it is necessary force is to take a weapon away from a cop that he or she might need to protect his or her life or the life of an innocent bystander." However, as I watched the public video, I did not see a need for deadly force during the duration of that encounter, and this was not a “last resort” technique. Therefore, at that time (in my opinion) there was no immediate threat to the life of the officer or any bystander. So, at this time, I continue to refer to the same New York Times article where Chief Timoney said that he could imagine "extreme circumstances" in which a choke hold might be used legitimately, and each case would be reviewed afterward on its individual merits. But, he said, "as a matter of policy choke holds are forbidden."

Now, Mr. Lynch also proclaimed, “The autopsy report demonstrates that it was not a chokehold.” However, a statement by Blacks in Law Enforcement of America indicated....“A chokehold according to the definition of the NYPD; any police maneuver that puts any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

After examining of the video, it is obvious that Officer Pantaleo initiated a “chokehold” on the neck of Mr. Garner. It is visible that the arm did not pinch the sides of the neck to seal the carotid artery, which could cause unconsciousness, but in fact the forearm laid across the front of the neck, sealing the windpipe, which is more likely to cut off breathing.  

In closing, I am not saying that Mr. Garner was innocent of anything nor am I saying he was guilty of any major crimes. However, he is guilty of resisting the officers. But despite that fact, it did not justify the outcome, which was both tragic and unnecessary. Accountability should be assigned for Mr. Garner's untimely death, however the justice system sees fit to do so. But this is my sole opinion, to which I am entitled by the U.S. Constitution. With that said, I think Mr. Lynch should make more of an effort to carefully choose his words. 

Thank you.


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