“If I was a police officer I probably would not be happy,” NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said.
National Review • August 19, 2019
The officer who placed Eric Garner in a choke hold during a street arrest in 2014 that resulted in Garner’s death has been fired, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill announced Monday.
The announcement comes two weeks after a police judge ruled that the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, 34, should be terminated over his use of a chokehold to subdue Garner. Pantaleo employed the prohibited maneuver while attempting to arrest garner for the unlicensed sale of loose cigarettes on a State Island street corner.
O’Neill acknowledged during a Monday press conference that Pantaleo was placed in a difficult situation during but ultimately concluded that he “can no longer effectively serve as a new York city police officer.”
“I can tell you that had I been in Officer Pantaleo’s situation, I may have made similar mistakes,” said O’Neill, who served as a uniform NYPD officer for more than three decades. “But none of us can take back our decisions, particularly when they result in the death of another human being.”
Garner’s final plea of “I can’t breathe” was captured in a viral video that sparked a national backlash against racial bias in policing. The 43-year-old Garner was a married father of six. His family previously received a $5.9 million settlement from the city.
The case also resulted in local and federal civil rights investigations, both of which cleared Pantaleo and his fellow officers of criminal wrongdoing.
Summing up the case, O’Neill concluded there were “no victors” in that both police officers and civilians will suffer from the fall out.
“If I was a police officer I probably would not be happy,” O’Neill said. “But someone calls for help, dials 911, somebody flags them down, they are not going to think about this decision.”
Patrick Lynch, who leads the Police Benevlent Association, the union that represents NYPD officers, predicted earlier this month that “it will paralyze the NYPD for years to come” if O’Neill complied with the judge’s recommendation to fire Pantaleo.