Saturday, May 21, 2016


A couple of incidents highlight a serious problem with police use of force.

“NYPD officers approached Garner on suspicion of selling "loosies" (single cigarettes) from packs without tax stamps. After Garner told the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, the officers went to arrest Garner. When officer Daniel Pantaleo took Garner's wrist behind his back, Garner swatted his arms away. Pantaleo then put his arm around Garner's neck and pulled him backwards and down onto the ground. After Pantaleo removed his arm from Garner's neck, he pushed Garner's face into the ground while four officers moved to restrain Garner, who repeated "I can't breathe" eleven times while lying facedown on the sidewalk. After Garner lost consciousness, officers turned him onto his side to ease his breathing. Garner remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive. The officers and EMTs did not perform CPR on Garner at the scene; according to a spokesman for the PBA, this was because they believed that Garner was breathing and that it would be improper to perform CPR on someone who was still breathing. He was pronounced dead at the hospital approximately one hour later.”

The medical examiner concluded that Garner was killed by "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”

When Garner said “I can’t breathe” a second time, police should have backed off immediately and re-evaluated the situation.

A recent incident is not quite as bad, but illustrates the same principle.  [See the video at the linked website.] The suspect was obviously mentally disturbed and struggled with an officer over a taser while still inside the vehicle. 
"Mr. Sherman was stunned again, and then he appeared to wrestle away control of the Taser despite still being handcuffed.
“Moments later, an emergency medical technician who had arrived at the scene tried to help subdue Mr. Sherman. “O.K. I’m dead, I’m dead,” Mr. Sherman said as he was shoved to the floor and wedged between the front and back seats. “I quit, I quit,” he could be heard saying."
The medical technician pushed down on Mr. Sherman’s body. “I got all the weight of the world on him now,” he could be heard saying before Mr. Sherman was shocked again.
But suddenly realizing that Mr. Sherman was not breathing, the deputy sheriffs and the medical technician pulled him out of the car and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation while his parents and Ms. Galloway watched.”

It appears that officers had regained control of the taser before Sherman was shoved to the floor.  When he said "I quit," the officers should have backed off and re-evaluated the situation. 

Why don’t police back off?  The adrenaline is flowing and they may feel a need to ‘punish’ the suspect for fighting and not following orders.  Perhaps they want to try to send a message that they will not tolerate disobedience and resistance.  Perhaps it’s too much macho.  Perhaps they weren’t trained to do this.  We also see a lot of this at the end of a high speed pursuit when police rip the suspect out of the car without providing any opportunity for the suspect to give up. At any rate, police tactics need to change.


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