Saturday, 26 July 2014

Notes on the Staten Island chokehold

To recap: a gaggle of cops arrest an unthreatening Eric Garner [above], known to sell contraband cigarettes—but not seen doing so on this occasion—who does not resist but complains loudly, is thrown to the ground, choked, strangled and killed. Emergency workers show up, manage not to notice that he isn’t breathing, stand around chatting, and the guys is DOA at the hospital. The whole thing is captured on cellphone video, so the usual fake stories about resisting arrest are not credible.

Notable facts: Bill Bratton, the new police chief, specifically mentioned that he is no longer interested in numbers, as in total arrests for things like marihuana possession, loitering, etc., as a sign that cops are working. This is a radical break from unofficial tradition, denied but proven by things like the Adrian Schoolcraft recordings of a precinct officer insisting that patrolmen get out there and score arrests. If cops are no longer pressured into harassing people to get write-ups, incidents like the chokehold killing may be less frequent.

Mayor De Blasio’s first comment included his confirmation of what any observer can see, that the cop appears to be using an unauthorized chokehold. He then defers to the inevitable ‘investigation’, but the shift from past practice of refusing to suggest any misconduct is significant.

Al Sharpton is asking for federal civil rights intervention given that the NYPD cannot be trusted to institute reforms on its own as evidenced by the chokehold that the NYPD itself has ostensibly forbidden. The Justice Department sounds interested (‘closely monitoring’ the probe). Bratton, though he can’t say so publicly, may well be happy to see them intervene to help him bring the department under control.

Al Sharpton isn’t everyone’s favorite guy, but aside from Jumaane Williams, the Brooklyn councilman [left], the city’s black politicians are pretty shy about standing next to the victims’ families to criticize the police. You don’t see any Charlie Rangel at these demonstrations or news conferences, despite his recent campaign for a 25th term in Congress as the friend of Harlem’s oppressed masses. It would be fair to assume that it’s not the way to get ahead in local politics.

Bratton’s appointment and De Blasio’s accession to the mayor’s job were supposed to usher in a new age of police-community relations. I went to a holds-hand-and-sing affair at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem a few days ago led by Leora Fulani where she put on a workshop-performance of her ‘Cops & Kids’ trainings, endorsed by Bratton who introduced her. It was well-meaning and probably useful and also pretty lame. It’s not likely to extinguish the renewed bitterness about how easy it is for cops to put a non-violent black guy to death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is no place in my mind for me to understand what happened in Staten Island that day. I have seen the tape and it is clear that this was torture and murder in plain site. I am remiss to understand why no bystanders would at least TRY to pull the officers off of the dying man. That escapes me. All that aside, and it's not small, the lack of community outrage is stunning to me, and as Mr. Frasca so aptly points out, is this the politically correct stance to take? Still shaking my head at the obvious misuse, no, blatant ABUSE of "power" and reminding myself of what true power looks like. Not that. Thank you Mr. Frasca.