Good morning, Rebels, and welcome back to my life.
So you’re probably already well-informed and know what’s going on in New York, but let’s recap for anyone you might share this video to.
In July a New York Police Officer named Daniel Pantaleo attempted arrest of a man named Eric Garner in New York City, allegedly for selling loose cigarettes on the street.
During the encounter Officer Pantaleo threw Eric Garner to the ground and wrapped an arm around his throat in a chokehold.
According to the New York Times, the NYPD banned chokeholds in 1993.
Eric Garner had asthma and immediately became distressed, screaming “I can’t breathe” 11 times before falling silent and dying shortly thereafter.
This entire encounter was captured on a cell phone camera and has been widely distributed on the Internet. I’m not going to show it here. Please only track it down if you’re sure you can handle the content.
Daniel Pantaleo was brought before a Grand Jury to determine whether to bring the case to court, just like Darren Wilson was in Ferguson, Missouri for the killing of Mike Brown.
And just like Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, the Grand Jury decided there was not enough evidence to send the matter to court.
Now a quick refresher: a grand jury is NOT supposed to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not. They are ONLY supposed to determine whether there is probable cause to suspect a crime.
That is an extremely low bar, because one or two witnesses claiming wrongdoing could be seen as probable cause. And in this case there is a video of the entire event.
So why wasn’t Pantaleo indicted? Well, it’s hard to understand, certainly, since less than 1% of grand juries fail to indict.
But it’s a lot easier to understand when you know that grand juries almost never indict police officers.
This seems like a clear double standard between ordinary citizens versus police officers, who you would think should be held to a higher standard of ethical behavior.
And with this country’s historical problem with racial profiling by police, especially of black people, I’m pretty disturbed by this trend of absolving police officers of wrongdoing through a grand jury.
Because unlike a trial, a grand jury is a closed-door proceeding the public does not get to witness.
What was the grand jury shown? What were they told, and how? Were they fed a false law by which to judge the officer’s conduct, like the Darren Wilson grand jury?
These are questions we will, unfortunately, NEVER receive answers to.
Both the Ferguson and New York grand juries have dealt huge blows to transparency when the people in this country not only want, but desperately need answers.
Perhaps more importantly, the Eric Garner case has doused the hopes of those who wanted to mitigate police brutality by requiring police officers to wear body cameras when on duty.
Because even with clear video evidence, Officer Pantaleo has not been brought to a trial where, in full view of the public he is supposed to serve, the facts of the incident can be debated and weighed, and his guilt or innocence can be established.
However, I suppose it was always naive to think that body cameras were the complete solution.
Because I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s not like we “didn’t know” this was happening.
The problem is that the system as it exists lets this happen, over and over again.
When muddy evidence exists, the system will make up the story it wants, and when clear evidence exists, the system will ignore it if it thinks it can get away with it.
So what else can be done to mitigate these circumstances in the future?
Well, despite the Eric Garner case, I think that body cameras are still a step in the right direction, because overwhelming evidence is a powerful tool in making a case for change.
We could also require special prosecutors to step in when a law enforcement official is brought to a grand jury.
DAs are, by the nature of their job, connected to local law enforcement and therefore inherently biased in favor of them. It’s not their fault, it’s just a fact.
I definitely don’t hold all the answers to this, and I’m no expert. But I think we as a country are becoming more and more convinced that an answer is NEEDED, and that is probably the most important first step we can take.
Thanks for watching, Rebels. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.