Mother of Eric Garner, activists call for change to how NYPD disciplines officers

March 9, 2018
Kristin Toussaint
Metro New York

Advocates, elected officials and New Yorkers who say they’ve been harmed by the NYPD want to change the way officers are disciplined for their behavior while in uniform.

A recent Buzzfeed News investigation revealed that hundreds of NYPD officers kept their jobs after committing serious offenses like lying to grand juries, stealing or assaulting city residents.

That report prompted New Yorkers, including the mother of Eric Garner and multiple council members, to gather at the City Hall steps on Thursday to demand an investigation by Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill.

“The NYPD’s broken accountability system, failing to meaningfully discipline officers who are engaging in some of the most serious abuses and misconduct, is in a state of crisis” said Rama Issa-Ibrahim, a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, in a statement.

“This is dangerous, because abusive officers disregarding their most fundamental oath to the public are being allowed to continue as officers and commit increasingly worse abuses which can include killings of civilians after they are not held accountable by the department,” she continued “And all of this is being systematically hidden from the public.”

The members of Communities United for Police Reform are calling on the city to fire all 300-plus officers mentioned in the Buzzfeed report.

These officers have reportedly used excessive force to “viciously” beat people, falsely arrested residents, committed sexual abuses, fabricated evidence and more — all “offenses serious enough to merit firing,” according to Buzzfeed, and yet these officers only received “dismissal probation,” a penalty that allows them to continue their job at their usual salary.

Activists also want officials to put in place a system of automatically firing officers who engage in certain types of misconduct, removing the ability for them to just receive a “slap on the wrist.” Such mild punishments are “an insult to every New Yorker – especially our clients – who suffer a much different and much more severe criminal justice system,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society,” in a statement.

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, noted that it has been almost four years since her son’s death with little repercussions to show. A medical examiner ruled that an officer’s chokehold on Garner, who had been arrested in Staten Island for selling loose cigarettes, killed him; the grand jury did not indict the officer.

“The de Blasio administration has failed to hold the officers accountable, including all the officers who used excessive force on him, failed to intervene and lied on official reports about it,” she said in a statement. “This lack of accountability is corruption of the worst kind because it perpetuates injustice perpetrated by those who are supposed to serve and protect.”