Protests erupt after decision in chokehold death

World Today

Police Chokehold Death ProtestsA group of protesters rallying against a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner stage a brief sit in at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Hundreds of protesters gathered at New York City’s Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday night to show their rage against the grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer involved the death of an unarmed black man.

A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo who used an apparent chokehold on Eric Garner, who died after the confrontation in the borough of Staten Island.

Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died on July 17 after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island, New York.

Largely peaceful demonstrations also went on at the Times Square and near the Rockefeller Center. Protestors shouted slogans – “I can’t breathe” – Garner’s last words.

Pantaleo didn’t quit from the police department, which made the protestors even more angry.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said federal prosecutors would conduct their own investigation of Garner’s death. The New York Police Department also is doing an internal probe which could lead to administrative charges against Pantaleo, who remains on desk duty.

Police convictions and incarcerations much lower than general public

Just over a third of cops convicted of a criminal charge went to jail or prison. But digging into data released by the U.S. Department of Justice, CATO researchers found that on average, 70 percent of convicted non-police officers — the so-called “general population” of Americans — go behind bars, a difference of 33 percentage points.

When cops do go to jail, they also go for shorter periods of time than other convicts: An average of 34.6 months for police officers, compared to an average 49 months for everyone else.

This would appear to indicate that there are disparities on a national scale between how law enforcement officers are treated in the criminal justice system since conviction and incarceration rates for law enforcement officers are nearly half that of the conviction and incarceration rates for the general public and, even when convicted, law enforcement officers spend 29% less time behind bars on average than the rest of the public. — David Packman, CATO

Unlike the Missouri case, where the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death remain in dispute, Garner’s July 17 arrest was captured on videotape. The Garner case could have even wider repercussions, particularly because it happened in the nation’s most prominent city and one with a liberal tradition.

The video shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet showed the 43-year-old Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him. Officer Daniel Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck in what appeared to be a chokehold, which is banned under the New York Police Department’s policy.

The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe!”

A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Garner while he lay motionless on the ground. He later died at a hospital.

The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and found that a chokehold contributed to it. A forensic pathologist hired by Garner’s family agreed with those findings, saying there was hemorrhaging on Garner’s neck indicative of neck compressions.

Pantaleo’s lawyer had argued he had used a move taught by the police department which was not a chokehold banned under the New York City police department policy. He attributed Garner’s death to factors including asthma and obesity.

Story compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press.