By now many commentators have weighed in on the non-indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who put the choke hold on Eric Garner. Coming as it did, about a week after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Michael Brown to death in Ferguson, MO, people are understandably upset. If you watch the video of the episode, it seems clear that this was a completely unnecessary take-down. Garner was initially approached by another officer on suspicion of selling “loosies”, single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. After Garner let the police that he was tired of being “harassed” and that he was not selling cigarettes, officers made the move to arrest Garner. On the video, Garner can be heard calling out a half dozen times that he “can’t breathe.”
By now it’s become eminently clear that there really is a significant double-standard when it comes to the treatment of black men by police departments. At least the numerous protests to both cases involved black, white, and people of other races protesting in unison. Because it’s New York, Mayor Bill DeBlasio — whose wife is black and whose kids are consequently mixed-race — will at least do what he can to change police department practices (with, unfortunately, the predictable push-back from the police unions). I don’t know for sure that either Officer Wilson or Officer Pantaleo should be indicted for murder — we are loathe to indict officers for mistakes in judgment in the absence of premeditated intent — but there should clearly be a very serious legal consequence for both officers and their police departments. Criminal civil rights convictions and big legal settlements for their respective departments seem appropriate.
But the final irony is that in New York, there is someone who was indicted relative to the Eric Garner incident: that is Ramsey Orta, the kid who shot the video. He was indicted for an unrelated weapons charge — not for shooting the video — but Orta is claiming retaliation, and personally I don’t doubt it.
Jon Stewart nails the whole episode on the Daily Show.