A grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict a New York police officer who put a fatal chokehold on an unarmed 43-year-old black man, Eric Garner, despite the encounter being caught on video tape. Just like in Ferguson, many are wondering what evidence the grand jury in New York was looking at that made them decide there wasn’t enough to charge the NYPD officer in Garner’s death. So how did they come to this decision?
Garner’s death is the latest in a slew of incidents that have raised tensions between law enforcement and the black community. In addition to the Ferguson grand jury’s decision last week not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, Cleveland police are also coming under fire for an incident involving one of their officers shooting a 12-year-old boy who was playing with a BB gun in a park.
In fact, the Justice Department released a report Thursday saying that the Cleveland Police Department uses excessive force far too often, are poorly trained in tactics, and endanger the public and fellow officers with their recklessness.
Here in Los Angeles, LAPD chief Charlie Beck is faulting three officers in the death of an unarmed man last year, saying they violated department rules for using deadly force. The three officers have remained relieved of duty since the incident and it will be up to Chief Beck to decide how the officers will be punished, if at all.
The common factor among each of these incidents is the questionable tactical decisions made by the police officers involved. Is enough being done to properly train police officers to use deadly force responsibly? How, if at all, should police training change after the incidents in Cleveland, Ferguson, L.A., and New York?
John L Burris, civil rights lawyer at The Law Offices of John L. Burris in Oakland and former prosecutor
Ben Tracktenberg, associate professor of law at the University of Missouri where he teaches criminal procedure, evidence and legal ethics
Tim Williams, retired LAPD Senior Detective Supervisor (Robbery-Homicide Division), 1974-2003; Expert on police procedure and use-of-force for state and federal court; owner of T.T. Williams Jr. investigations