Thursday, July 24, 2014
TIME AND AGAIN PUBLIC FIGURES OPT TO NOT DO THE RIGHT THING
TENSIONS ON THE RISE IN THE WAKE OF
DEATH OF STATEN ISLAND MAN RESISTING ARREST
AL SHARPTON AND SPIKE LEE NEVER MISS AN
OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLOIT A RACIALLY CHARGED ISSUE.
TAGS: ERIC GARNER, AL SHARPTON & SPIKE LEE RACE-BAITING AGAIN,
“CHOKE HOLD” VERSUS TAKE DOWN, POLICE VERSUS POLICING,
NYPD, NYPD INTERNAL AFFAIRS INVESTIGATION, NYPD PATROL GUIDE,
CESSATION OF SQF, FDNY EMT INVESTIGATION,
NYC OFFICE OF LEGAL COUNSEL
(Thursday July 24, 2014, NYC) The audio and visual images of NYPD Officers attempting to arrest Eric Garner on Staten Island last Thursday are compelling and, to the uninitiated eye condemning. The dynamics of this most recent high profile NYPD interaction with an alleged perpetrator is one we are all too familiar with. Passions naturally run high on both sides of the circumstances by which the 6’ 5’ 400 pound father of six died after he resisted arrest and was taken to the ground before the Officers could subdue him.
The unfortunate death of Mr. Garner is being perceived through the same narrow vision of a tricolored spectrum; Black, Blue and White are the only colors this particular prism allows to filter through. Mr. Garner was a Black man and the NYPD Officers represent the Blue hue and all happened to be White. As long as the debate is framed in such a limiting manner we might look back on this episode months from now as the flashpoint that ignited what may prove to be a long hot summer in our City.
And, as predictable as tomorrow’s dawn the usual public figures insinuate themselves into the growing maelstrom because they can never resist an opportunity to exploit their own self-promoting, self-serving interests. People who could use their “fame” or other status to bring measured tones to counter the rancorous arguments throughout our neighborhoods opt instead to fan the always simmering flames of racial tensions while disparaging the NYPD has become their stock in trade. It is sickening to see men such as “Reverend” Al Sharpton who has traded his track suits for $2000 Amani’s since the Michael Stewart days. Perhaps to bolster his lagging career as a film maker, Spike Lee has stepped up to the plate and, in the most despicable way possible, created a mishmash video clip of Mr. Garner’s tussle with police with images from a somewhat similar scene from one of his movies that he just so happens to be re-promoting to mark its 25th year anniversary of release, his 1989 film “Do The Right Thing”. Spike Lee clearly demonstrated to all that he is a classless instigator who has used many of his films to further his political agenda while getting rich directing half-witted, racially charged movies.
Within hours after Mr. Garner was pronounced dead at Richmond University Medical Center, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that his Department’s Internal Affairs Division was going to conduct an investigation of the incident and retrain Officers on what is officially considered a “chokehold”, a means of subduing an individual that has been banned from the NYPD Patrol Guide since 1993. On Tuesday the FBI announced that they would be “monitoring” the internal NYPD investigation. That is a curious statement since the entire event falls within the domain of The City of New York and its Office of Legal Counsel, NYPD and the FDNY since four FDNY EMT’s arrived at the scene and appeared to not be making sufficient efforts to revive Mr. Garner as he lay on the ground. By law the FBI is tasked with federal law enforcement and has no jurisdiction over the NYPD and cannot become involved in any “local” criminal investigation unless the case meets certain strict criteria and/or they are formerly “invited” by local authorities to assist them. Perhaps the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder are preparing for what will likely be a civil suit brought by Garner’s family. In any case, at this point this development just further complicates the matter.
CHOKE-HOLD VERSUS TAKE-DOWN
With the popularization of MMA or Mixed Martial Arts Fighting, the viewing public knows what a choke-hold looks like. Most times an opponent is trapped in a choke-hold he will lose consciousness if he doesn’t “tap out” prior to passing out. While many who have seen the video of the Officers attempting to arrest Mr. Garner see an Officer grab the much taller, heavier man from the back, that maneuver is clearly not a choke-hold; the Officer never locked his arms in the position that would be considered a choke-hold. The Officer employed a common street fighting technique known as a take-down. It is a close-line type clinching of one arm from behind an assailant’s back in order to restrain the individual’s effort to resist arrest and possibly injure the Officers. That Garner was morbidly obese and as an asthmatic were contributing factors that no doubt were the underlying cause of his death.
A complete or partial post mortem examination was made of Mr. Garner’s body by one of the NYC Medical Examiners. That report has not been released and may still not be complete. But, the results of that post mortem will prove what exactly killed Mr. Garner. The truth is always revealed by the Forensic Pathologist’s scalpel. The external and initial internal gross examination of tissue and organs often show telltale evidence as to the cause of death and, after specific tissue samples are processed for microscopic study, the whole story can be told. Until that report is made public any opinions regarding Garner’s death are speculative at best; purposely deceptive and false at worst.
Much has been made about Mr. Garner shouting at the Officers who were attempting to cuff him while he was pinned beneath them on the ground in a standard operating procedure for applying cuffs to a resisting perpetrator. He was heard 11 times forcefully telling the Officers, “I can’t breathe”. A person who is rendered into a position or succumbs to the pressures that would obstruct breathing would also render them unable to speak forcefully and clearly. If Garner was indeed having his breath obstructed his pleas about his lack of ability to do so would have grown shallower, more labored and fainter. Again the post mortem will reveal what his breathing restraints were or weren’t and if, in fact, he succumbed by asphyxiation. It is likely that Garner suffer a myocardial infarction – a heart attack – brought on by the over exertion as he resisted arrest, compounded by his bulk and asthmatically compromised lungs.
After 39 prior arrests for essentially penny ante crimes, for whatever reasons, Mr. Garner chose Thursday July 17, 2014 to make a stand. He kept his back to the wall as the Officers converged around him to question him and he told them clearly, “This ends today”. Obviously he was referring to what he perceived as all his priors and had reached his point. Everyone has a point and last Thursday Mr. Garner had decided he had reached his. At any time he could have simply complied with the Officer’s initially polite questions that escalated to more threatening tones as Garner continue to remain in a belligerent, resistant posture.
While the video clip captures the sights and sounds of the altercation the element that no recording device of any kind can capture is the “feel” of the confrontation, the “smell” and “sense” of it as it plays out as both parties react and respond to the energy field between them that crackles and tingles like static electricity between high tension wires. People who have grown up or spent times “on the streets” know all too well that feel, smell and sense component. Anyone who has ever gotten into a barroom brawl or street fight is familiar with it. Cops are intimately familiar with this sixth sense and as they grow in experience all the stimulus accumulated and processed throughout the years allows the Cop to acquire instincts; second nature responses that result in rapid, decisive action be that particular reaction escalatory or de-escalatory.
It can be posited that an average man of Mr. Garner’s age, no matter his race, color or creed would comply with any reasonable instructions from uniformed, armed Members of Service (MOS) of NYPD. Mr. Garner did not comply. Does this entirely excuse the MOS who interacted with him last Thursday from any culpability? Does that event explain why the EMT’s appear indifferent to Mr. Garner’s health status as he lay on the sidewalk? These are not questions that can be responsibly answered from simply viewing the video clip that has gone viral. People are free, obviously, to draw any conclusions they care to, arrive at the answers that most comport with their world and personal views. But having such potentially incendiary tirades as we have seen on the local TV news and have read on-line, in the papers and in the media at large is absolutely counter-productive and creates an even greater chasm between the NYPD and the African American community who often feel they are subjected to unfair scrutiny and heavy-handed tactics by NYPD MOS.
POLICE VERSUS POLICING
The overwhelming majority of New Yorkers welcome the safety and security the men and women of the NYPD provide. They support efforts to reduce crime, initiatives designed for crime prevention and overall help maintain a sense of social order that many big cities today such as Chicago, Detroit, Flint, and Oakland are severely lacking. We of a certain age have all lived through our darkest chapters and recent troubling trends ought not to be misinterpreted as ominous signs that we are sliding backwards. We are not returning to our past.
The fact of the matter is that while people like the concept of the Police they are often uncomfortable and disturbed when they actually witness real life “Policing”. Policing the largest City in America is a tough job, one the MOS of the NYPD take great pride in and excel at. Policing is often sloppy, sweaty, dangerous and ugly. There is nothing neat and tidy about policing our streets and housing projects, our parks and promenades, and our subways. Policing often requires the use of force; of physical altercations with the criminal element that no one really wants to know about. They do not care to know about it until they notice it is NOT happening anymore.
With the cessation of the controversial “Stop, Question and Frisk” (SQF) policy, many citizens from neighborhood councils and groups throughout the Five Boroughs, some living in the most crime infested pockets of The Bronx, Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan tell Officers that they miss the greater Police presence that SQF often brought to their streets and projects. After all it is not the Police themselves who help maintain social order but rather the concept of the Police. Since MOS cannot blanket every block throughout the City, it is the concept of being caught in some criminal act that helps maintain the order required of a civil society. Do the Police sometimes get something wrong? Certainly. They are all as error prone as any humans are but they are also highly trained in the exercise of restraint, self-restraint , as well as in the most effective, efficient and safest methods to apply force while protecting innocent lives and their own lives.
For some reason it seems as if the Officers who engaged Mr. Garner one week ago and were probably familiar with his history to some degree, felt it necessary to make the arrest. As it unfolded he made some very poor choices and the MOS may or may not have made similarly poor choices. It is only fair that we all wait for the truth to be revealed. The autopsy report should be complete and released by this time tomorrow. Until that time everyone should refrain from drawing conclusions and exploiting this sad event for their own purposes.
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