Five years ago, the death of Eric Garner opened an old wound and forced this country to look at our collective racial sins in the face.
Two days ago, the fate of the police officer accused of putting Mr. Garner in a choke hold and killing him was decided. Officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired.
I am not a police officer nor am I a person of color, so I cannot write this post from either perspective. As much as I understand a day in the life of a police officer, I get that they are putting their lives in their hands every day that they go to work. I also understand that citizens (especially men) of color are often targeted by police because of their skin color and not because of any crime they may or may not have committed.
Either way, the decision would not have ended well. Someone would have been unhappy. As I see it, the way to move forward is communication and developing open relationships between the police and the community members. The problem is that these steps are often very hard to make. But unless these difficult steps are made, the open wound between the police and communities of color may never heal.
It’s not exactly a secret that in the United States, citizens of color are stigmatized, forced into an unspoken second class and targeted by the police simply because of their skin color.
Eric Garner is just one of the many African-American and Latino men who have been targeted and killed because of who they are. But his name, along with a few other names, have become synonymous with police brutality.
Earlier today, a judge recommended that Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer accused of putting an illegal choke hold on Mr. Garner, should be fired.
I agree that Officer Pantaleo should be fired. Some may argue that he should not be fired. They will probably state that Mr. Garner already had a record and health issues, which is undisputed fact. However, even with those facts, the response by the officers could have been different. Officer Pantaleo, as I see it, was far too aggressive. Mr. Garner didn’t have to die that day.
Officer Pantaleo’s fate is now in the hands of the police commissioner. Commissioner O’Neill should not only fire Officer Pantaleo, he should use the firing as an example to the rest of the force. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. If a member of the NYPD reacts as Office Pantaleo did, they will be prosecuted.
May Mr. Garner’s memory be a blessing to his family and a reminder that the ideal of true racial equality in this country is still just an ideal.