Eric Garner’s Mother & Other Advocates Demand Mayor de Blasio Stop NYPD from Blocking CCRB Prosecution of Pantaleo
Group calls for de Blasio administration to end 3+ years of delays to accountability and fire multiple officers involved in killing
Advocates dispute administration’s claim that it cannot act until Justice Department decision, labeling it political decision contradicted by recent cases around nation and history in NYC
The mother of Eric Garner, Gwen Carr, and civil rights and police reform advocates called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to end the over three years of obstruction and delays to accountability for the multiple NYPD officers involved in killing Garner and the associated misconduct. Specifically, the group revealed that the NYPD is blocking the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) from prosecuting Officer Daniel Pantaleo and urged the mayor to end this impediment. The de Blasio administration has claimed that it is restricted from taking action until the Justice Department decides whether to indict Pantaleo, but advocates highlighted a number of cases and examples that contradict this assertion. They instead characterized the de Blasio administration’s delays as a political decision to avoid making a determination about accountability.
“It’s been over three years since NYPD officers killed my son Eric, while he pleaded eleven times for his life – that he could not breathe – and yet the de Blasio has still taken no real action to address this brutal injustice,” said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner. “Pantaleo was responsible for the chokehold, but several officers were involved in the excessive force that killed Eric, many officers did nothing to intervene when it was clear that my son was being choked and could not breathe, while others submitted reports about the incident that tried to cover up what happened by obscuring the use-of-force. It shouldn’t take over three years for the NYPD to hold officers accountable for unjustly killing a civilian and related misconduct, and we are saying that these delays are a political decision by the de Blasio administration. The examples of officers being fired before the federal government indicted them or completed their federal cases exist around the nation and in NYC, the CCRB made clear last year that they were willing to prosecute Pantaleo, and we are urging Mayor de Blasio to stop hiding behind the Trump administration on police accountability in our city. It’s unacceptable and the height of injustice for Pantaleo and other officers to receive pay increases over the past three years that can accrue to their pensions. It’s time for the de Blasio administration to stop politically avoiding police accountability for the killing of my son, he needs to stop making excuses and fire all the officers involved.”
It was reported in September 2017 that the CCRB had substantiated a misconduct case against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for using a chokehold against Garner. It had long been reported that the NYPD was holding off on its disciplinary process, but in the months since the CCRB substantiated misconduct, Garner’s mother learned otherwise. After meeting with the CCRB, Ms. Carr learned that the CCRB intended to immediately prosecute Pantaleo. Yet months later, the CCRB has been unable to move forward with their prosecution or even have formal administrative charges filed against Pantaleo because the NYPD is obstructing the process by refusing to provide the needed case number to serve Pantaleo with the charges.
The claims by Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD that they are legally constricted from acting before the Justice Department is contradicted by history in NYC and more recent history around the nation. There are several cases of police officers being fired in advance of their being indicted on federal civil rights charges for killing civilians.
- Michael Slager, the South Carolina police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott in April 2015 and was later convicted of federal civil rights violations, was fired in 2015 before the Justice Department even brought federal charges against him.
- Roy Oliver, the Texas police officer who killed Jordan Edwards in April 2017, was fired by his department before it was announced that the Justice Department was investigating.
- The last NYPD officer to be indicted by the Justice Department for killing a civilian was Francis Livoti, who was indicted in January 1998 for his 1994 chokehold killing of Anthony Baez, but he was fired from the department almost a year before the indictment in February 1997.
The de Blasio administration and NYPD made a similar claim about the Justice Department requesting they not proceed with NYPD administrative, disciplinary processes related to officers involved in killing Ramarley Graham. Yet when Graham’s mother met with the Justice Department, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and his staff were directly and specifically asked about this and they refuted these claims by the de Blasio administration.
“Mayor de Blasio cannot credibly claim to carry the mantle of progressivism, while perpetuating such severe injustices in the city he governs, and it’s time for him to end the political delays to police accountability for the killing of Eric Garner,” said Kirsten John Foy, Northeast Regional Director of National Action Network. “It’s been over three years since Eric Garner was killed by NYPD officers and the mayor has taken no action to hold those officers accountable and is in fact blocking the city’s CCRB from prosecuting one of the officers involved. These delays are political decisions by the de Blasio administration and not legal constraints, as the several cases of police departments (including New York City’s) firing officers before they are indicted by the Justice Department demonstrate. Eric Garner’s family deserves accountability from our city, not politics as usual that allow the mayor to avoid doing the right thing because it may come with irrational political attacks from unreasonable police unions.”
In the over three years since Garner was killed by NYPD officers, Pantaleo has gone from earning $99,915 in 2014 to $120,128 in 2017. It was revealed in 2016 that Pantaleo had been receiving high levels of overtime pay – approximately $40,000 – since killing Garner. The de Blasio administration claimed the NYPD would change policy to require the commissioner to approve overtime for officers, but Pantaleo has nonetheless continued to receive pay increases outside of overtime.
“By continuing to prevent the CCRB from prosecuting Officer Daniel Pantaleo, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD are playing shameful political games in order to shield abusive officers,” said Loyda Colon, Justice Committee Co-Director. “There are many areas de Blasio prides himself as part of the resistance to the Trump administration so it's hypocritical that he refuses to take action that's fully in his administration's control by firing Pantaleo and other officers responsible for killing Eric Garner. Meanwhile, Eric's mother and family have been forced to suffer for years without answers and New Yorkers' tax dollars are being used for annual pay increases for Pantaleo and other officers. Enough is enough. Pantaleo and the other officers involved in Eric's murder must be fired without delay.”
Despite claims made by Mayor de Blasio about the benefits of implicit bias training over the past years, as if it had already begun, it was recently revealed that not a single officer has received any such training. Eric Garner was killed by NYPD officers on July 14, 2014 on Staten Island.
About Communities United for Police Reform
Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.
CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.