Eric Garner’s Killing: The Mindset Is The Issue

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, to the surprise and appreciation of many New Yorkers, didn’t pull a Ray Kelly.  Instead, he immediately condemned what clearly appeared from the video of Eric Garner’s seizure and killing to be a prohibited chokehold.  It was just one of many problems with the needless killing, but former Commissioner Kelly would never have been man enough to admit the obvious.

Bratton moved on his cops, for the chokehold if nothing else:

The officer who placed Mr. Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold while trying to put him under arrest, Daniel Pantaleo, was ordered to turn in his badge and gun; another officer who first approached Mr. Garner, Justin Damico, was reassigned to desk duty; and the roles of the other officers at the scene who helped wrestle Mr. Garner to the ground are under review by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau as investigators await the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner’s office.

In the past, it’s unlikely the names of the cops involved would have been released, because police deserve privacy, according to their defenders, to go with their special rights.  Instead, media statement number 6 would be trotted out, about how we need to reserve judgment, about how an investigation will be conducted that will take at least 3 years, about how if you don’t like cops, next time call a criminal.  The usual.

Remembering the big guy on Sunday, notably because he was a peacemaker in Tompkinsville Park whose worst affront to the dignity of Staten Island was to hawk individual cigarettes, a preacher was tired of hearing the same story line.

“I’ve heard what is needed is more police training,” Bishop Victor A. Brown told his congregation at Mount Sinai United Christian Church, a few blocks from Tompkinsville Park. “The police get enough training; a mind-set is the issue. Enough is enough. Stop killing our people.”

He’s absolutely right. It’s not training; it’s attitude. It’s always been attitude. And before anyone “explains” that the problem is Eric Garner just didn’t comply, Eric Garner was a serial untaxed cigarette seller, Eric Garner had 31 priors (as if this bears any relevance to this take down), none of this matters.  Too many people are being harmed, killed, over squat.  That’s a matter of attitude, not need.

The opportunity to recognize the attitude adjustment needed is staring cops in the face.  When two cops were taken out in Vegas, some of us tried to calm the anger, the hatred, that’s seething below the surface toward the police.  This is the act of madmen.  Not all cops are violent. Not all cops care nothing for the lives of the people they pretend to serve and protect.

Bratton may be getting the message. Certainly, his reaction was a world apart from his predecessor, much to PBA President Pat Lynch’s usual ire:

NYPD’s decision to reassign the officers was criticized by Pat Lynch, the president of the city’s largest police union who called it a “completely unwarranted, knee-jerk reaction” that denies Pantaleo the “very benefit of a doubt that has long been part of the social contract that allows police officers to face the risks of this difficult and complex job.”

Lynch’s social contract is a bit different than the one that binds the rest of society together.  Always with an excuse for police violence at the ready, Lynch defends his cops, no matter who was killed or why.  He’s well-paid to play the fool.  But other cops have no similar excuse:

Dont resist. I don’t understand why these people don’t simply comply. He would be out already with a DAT. What would his penalty have been? A fine perhaps? More than likely, he would have been cut loose with a warning. Unreal. I wish the officers well, its gonna be a bumpy ride.


A more accurate headline would be “Non Compliant Fat Bastard Gets Just Due In Resisting Law Enforcement Officers”


I guess it’s the best thing for his tribe.  He probably never worked a legit job. They city will pay off the family and they will be in Nigggaaa heaven for the rest of their lives!!


Fat fck perp who was anointed a Saint by all who knew him. Married, noticed how they put that in there, because 9 times out of 10 it’s not the case.

This video will gain a lot of traction and heads will roll. Pretty much every cop there will be modified.

As far as the grab around the neck, I would have done the same thing. That piece of sh!t was too fat and wide to grab anywhere else.

Seems it was conveniently edited as well. Maybe missing a few details of the mutts action?


I wouldn’t be surprised if the act, he seems to be well rehearsed at, has let him get away with previous crimes. Some cops would just back off and not take him into custody, making it more difficult for the cops that follow to arrest this guy. Can’t wait for the autopsy result, the police action had very little to do with his death, he caused his own death with his non-compliance, overeating and lack of physical activity.

Be safe.

These may not reflect the reactions of most cops, but then, where are the “good” cops speaking out against the need to have forcibly taken Eric Garner down?  The reasons why other cops remain silent are well-known, and understandable. But they’re wrong.  The cops on this “rant” are empowered to spew their dangerous attitude, because they have no fear any brother cop will tell them to STFU.  Others may cringe, but they will do so in silence.  The gung-ho haters may not be the majority, but they are loud and brazen.  They dictate the attitude, but only because the good cops lack the guts to shut them up.

Much as people like me, who find the Pat Lynches and Ray Kellyes disgraceful, will nonetheless fight our base instincts and admonish the crazies not to harm cops out of hatred, it’s people like you, the ones who believe themselves to be the good cops, the ones who don’t want to harm people over nothing, who would rather talk their way out of contempt of cop than kill some kid’s father because your manhood has shriveled, who have to grow up, man up, take ownership of your force, your team, your job.

You may have greater firepower, but there are a lot more people out there without shields on their chest who are coming increasingly close to choosing not to die at the hands of police without a fight.  Push hard and far enough, and you may find that no military uniform, no tank, will protect a cop from the anger and hatred of a citizenry that’s had enough.

Bishop Brown was right.  You’ve got all the training you need. That excuse is played. The problem is your mindset, your attitude that the life of a person is worthless.  Some cops have the attitude that the use of violence against guys who have hurt no one is their right, and they feel nothing at the killing of Eric Garner.  Other cops have the attitude that this was a senseless, needless, killing, but they also have the attitude that they will never say so to their fellow cops and risk the anger of the hard cases, who will make fun of them, demean them, for not being tough, manly enough cops.  For not being killers. For not laughing at the death of some “fat fck” who could have avoided it all if he only complied.

Both attitudes are the problem. Fix them both.

H/T Radley Balko

29 thoughts on “Eric Garner’s Killing: The Mindset Is The Issue

  1. ExEMT

    Most cops are good (personally know a number of them), most of us would call them if we needed them, and most would not hesitate to call 911. But there is a problem with killings-by-cop or assault-by-cop and the cops being acquitted. Do some cops act in careless ways (maybe even malicious) because in the back of their heads they know they will get away with it? What’s the sense in having a Civilian Complaint Review Board when the officers (some have numerous complaints on file) continue to keep their jobs and torment the public with no accountability? I would love for the day when a cop who is under investigation is suspended WITHOUT pay until an investigation is complete (if they are “acquitted” they get back pay). Bottom Line: killings by law enforcement must stop! Eric Garner did not have to die, but what really torques me off is that I know in my heart that the ignorant SOB’s who killed him will very likely be exonerated by a grand jury or if charged, will walk following a trial. The “system” is FUBAR and needs repair.

    1. SHG Post author

      Not that I disagree with your point, but you should be careful with your words.

      Most cops are good (personally know a number of them),…

      Bearing in mind that most people here are criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges, we too know a few cops personally. We generally don’t look to others to supplant our experiences because we are so utterly unworldly, cloistered perhaps, that we have no experiences of our own. Not that yours are necessarily wrong, but if you ask yourself, why would a bunch of lawyer think they should ignore the entirety of their experiences and accept my word instead, you will see what I’m saying.

      The “system” is FUBAR and needs repair.

      Please review the meaning of FUBAR.

      1. ExEMT

        I retract the “most cops are good” and replace it with “I know a number of good cops”. I take back the broad over-reach when I said “most”. Taking into account what you have seen (and other defense lawyers) I gave too much general praise. Sorry, my bad

        FUBAR – Old EMT slang for “Fouled Up Beyond All Repair” (that is the polite version). Hopefully the definition shows why I applied it to “the system”

        1. SHG Post author

          I (and I suppose most others who read it) will understand what you meant. This was my gentle way to guide your comments to a more circumspect way of making your point in recognition of this being a law blog rather than a general bulletin board.

          As for FUBAR, note the irony of the last three words of the acronym and what you wrote afterward. Again, we understand what you were getting at, but I’m just having a little fun with you.

  2. Tim Cushing

    Eric Garner was killed over unpaid taxes.

    Going even further back than the “training” excuse, there’s that fact. Which is irredeemably ugly.

    1. SHG Post author

      You assume there’s some validity to the untaxed cigarette excuse. I do not. When someone is killed in the course of a takedown, there has to be some excuse, no matter how lame or unfounded. Just because he had been hassled by cops for selling individual cigarettes in the past does not mean he was doing so then.

      There is nothing in the video or witness statements to support any suggestion that Garner was taken down for untaxed cigarattes, and in the absence of evidence, I will not blindly accept it.

  3. Ken Bellone

    I’m just some white, former military, ex-conservative, who has grown tired of the us vs. them mentality so prevalent in the law enforcement community. The peace officers I looked up to are largely extinct.

    They’re being armed with the very “tools” that they provided me with to deal with some external threat to American security and now expect me to believe that all those goodies are to protect me and mine….and all of you from “them”, whoever they may be.

    Funny thing is they probably look at me, with my build, my bearing, my haircut and think I’m one of them, or at least on their side. They’re grossly mistaken, and I’m not an exception amongst my peers. When they have lost so many of those who you would expect to have in their camp, it becomes obvious that the tide is turning.

    I don’t have enough Reynolds wrap in my cupboard to fashion a respectable tinfoil hat, but the tipping point is approaching. I fear not for myself, but what of my children in their 20’s? Hard decisions lie ahead.

    1. SHG Post author

      Everyday, it becomes increasingly hard. If the tipping point comes, it will be their choice, the bad who deserve it and the good who did nothing to stop it.

  4. Jeff Norman

    It might be that the cop applied “pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.” But I don’t think the videotape indicates such pressure was applied. Am I wrong?

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  6. Georgina Watson

    What his family isn’t saying is that Eric Garner had a very strong hatred for the police. At times, he’d just draw attention to himself and start yelling while the cops weren’t paying any attention to him. The day before this incident, Eric saw a police officer had pulled over a black male and said, “I’m sick and tired of these h**ky cops pullin’ us over all the d**n time.” He yelled so loud that the cop and driver stared at him in disbelief. The driver complied with the officer and handed over his license. Eric yelled yet again, “You goin’ to jail, bro.” The driver and officer parted without any drama. The point is that Eric should have minded his business.

    It should also be noted that Eric had a long criminal record dating back to the early 2000’s. He had a history of drug posession and other criminal activity. His family overlooked the fact that he was a criminal because they blamed his behavior on racism.

    1. SHG Post author

      Aside from the open question of your source of this information, the little voices in your head notwithstanding, so what? He hated cops? He had a “long criminal record” (how many murders were in there?), as if that means anything? So that’s a good reason for him to die?

      You came to the wrong place to spew stupid crap.

    2. Sgt. Schultz

      Georgina, here’s the part I’m unclear about. Are you a nutjob, a shill or just as stupid as your comment appears? What I am clear about is that Darwin isn’t looking very good with you walking around.

    3. ExCop-LawStudent

      I dealt with hundreds of people that hated the police.

      I didn’t kill any of them.

      The point is if the officer uses the proper procedures, he won’t be in that position. Here, the officer went to a chokehold, deadly force, over untaxed cigarettes? That’s not appropriate under any circumstances.

      1. George B

        But he was not killed over untaxed cigarettes.

        He was killed for being an annoyance the cops wanted to teach a lesson; in other words, for committing Contempt of Cop.

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  8. Jeff Norman

    Scott, you’ve nailed an important point almost everyone else keeps ignoring: There was probably no probable cause to make an arrest. I think the evidence of that apparent violation of Garner’s rights is stronger than the evidence a prohibited chokehold was used. According to what I’ve been reading, neck restraints aren’t prohibited, only chokeholds (defined as applying pressure to the windpipe). To me the photos of lawful neck restraints don’t look much different than what the cop in the Garner video does. Can anyone really see that the cop is applying pressure to Garner’s windpipe?

    [Ed. Note: Links deleted per rules.]

    1. SHG Post author

      You were doing okay until you went to your vision of whether this was a chokehold. Unless you’re a cop or have some particular expertise in chokeholds, what could possibly make you think you’re competent to have an opinion? And if you aren’t competent to have an opinion, then why would anyone care what you think.

      1. Jeff Norman

        Scott, I gave an opinion as a preface to asking a question. I didn’t mean to imply my opinion is authoritative. I only meant to share my impression and then ask for an expert opinion. I apologize for including links. I didn’t realize you don’t allow it.

        Reworded questions: Given that neck restraints are used by various police departments, and nobody (to my knowledge) has said they’re prohibited by the NYPD unless pressure is applied to the windpipe, how sure are the experts that the cop applied pressure to Garner’s windpipe as opposed to encircling his neck in a lawful manner? Most media reports state, as if it were an undisputed fact, that a chokehold was used on Garner. Do you and other experts believe it’s appropriate to assert it as factual rather than as an accusation?

        1. SHG Post author

          Sorry to step on your question, Jeff, but I have this thing about unqualified opinions. One of my pet peeves here is that opinions at SJ come only from credible sources. People read them and assume they’re valid, and I have a rule about SJ not making people stupider. There’s way too much of that on the internet already.

          I don’t know if it’s a chokehold. Excop says so, and he’s got the chops. Bratton says so, and I’m willing to accede to his cred. Me, I don’t have any qualification, so I don’t opine. I’ve also deleted about a dozen comments from people with no qualifications who offered their opinions, because they weren’t qualified.

          While I have no problem with your question, I really want to avoid the proliferation of unqualified opinion. It illuminates nothing.

          By the way, until we have the results of an autopsy, we won’t have any clue what killed Eric Garner. The media is repeating meaningless drivel. Assuming there was a chokehold, which is prohibited, that doesn’t mean the chokehold killed him. There are plenty of other possibilities, from heart attack caused by exertion to chest compression from having cops on top of him. At this point, we don’t know.

    2. ExCop-LawStudent

      Assuming probable cause for arrest, for the sake of argument (and based on the video where an officer states that the arrest had nothing to do with breaking up the fight, towards the end), it does not negate the fact that the officer applied an arm-bar chokehold.

      You can look at the photo of Garner on the ground, here ( (Scott, feel free to delete – I just don’t know how else to make the point here – and if I’m out of line, chastise me). [Ed. Note: You’re killing me.] Here are the key points.

      1. The officer’s forearm is across the front of the neck of Garner, below the chin, and you can see the fatty tissue come over the officer’s forearm. This only happens if force is being applied.
      2. The right hand over the left hand, providing leverage to apply the force. You can also see that both biceps are bulged, and can compare their shape with photos of the officer standing over Garner later.
      3. The officer’s head and shoulder are pushing forward into Garner’s head, immobilizing it for the chokehold.

      This is a clear arm-bar chokehold, not a lateral vascular neck restraint. In the LVNR, the officer’s elbow would be in line with the subject’s chin and adams apple, to prevent crushing the windpipe and properly position the arms for bilateral pressure.

      1. SHG Post author

        I appreciate your adding your knowledge to the base. One point, which I noted with Jeff: at this point, we do not know that a chokehold killed him. It may have happened, but correlation does not prove causation.

        1. ExCop-LawStudent

          True, but the more critical point is why was the officer using deadly force? That’s what the arm-bar chokehold means, that deadly force is being used. Was that level of force warranted, even if the facts do not show a causal link to the death?

          I have concerns on the level of force used that are separate from the result of that force. The officer went way outside of the force continuum and escalated without justification. That’s a problem. If uncorrected, that’s what causes other incidents of a like nature. You posted a stat that supports this – over 1,000 complaints and only one disciplinary action taken for a chokehold.

          It means that the rank and file ignore the prohibition with the tacit approval of the brass. That’s unacceptable.

        2. Jeff Norman

          Okay, an anonymous individual agrees with a handful of experts who said they see it as a chokehold. I’m not qualified to analyze the method of restraint. But I feel perfectly qualified to point out that very few experts have publicly opined. The heart of the matter is being obscured by a parade of irrelevancies.

          When it comes to holding them accountable for how they made an arrest, does the law treat cops more leniently when they have been forced to struggle with a resisting suspect, than when a suspect has been compliant? If pressure was applied to Garner’s windpipe, could the cop who did it escape punishment by claiming it was unintentional and unavoidable due to the fact Garner resisted arrest?

          1. SHG Post author

            1. That “anon individual” is known to me to be who he claims to be, which is why I appreciate his insight. Yes, he’s anon to you, but then, this is my blog. Here, you’re more anon than he is. If I didn’t know that he was fully qualified to give his opinions, I wouldn’t let him offer them.

            2. Trying to predict the future isn’t a game that’s worth playing. Anybody can claim anything, but whether it will fly is based on a great many factors, few of which are known. We work with facts, not speculation. Let’s leave the predictions to psychics.

  9. George B

    point of law type question:

    If in fact it was *not* a legal arrest; does it matter exactly why he died? Is it then the question of “did the detective’s assault cause his death?” In short, [assuming NYS has such, of course] is this a felony murder type of case?

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