The Trend Toward Distrusting Police Could Hurt Us All

All democrats want to take your guns. All republicans are racist. So is law enforcement, and police brutality is commonplace.

Of course, none of those statements is true but they highlight the groupthink that has infected the national conversation.  When a police-involved death occurs it seems there are no shades of grey anymore, no need for facts, clarifying details or perspective – just the knee-jerk conclusion that the police officer was wrong.

At the last democratic presidential debate the opening statement of candidate Bill DeBlasio, Mayor of New York City, was interrupted by chants of “Fire Pantaleo!”  It was a reference to NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo who is white and was blamed for the 2014 “chokehold death” of a black man named Eric Garner.  Pantaleo has described his action as more of a “wrestling” or “seat belt” maneuver designed to bring down a disorderly suspect.

Garner Got No Emergency Medical –  wiki commons photo

The backstory:  Garner had been warned or arrested multiple times for illegally selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island’s Bay Street. On the day Garner died police got a call about a disturbance there and when they arrived they recognized Garner.  The 43-year-old father of six tried to explain that he had just broken up a fight between two men and was not selling cigarettes. Garner raised his arms and his voice and said he was tired of being harassed by police. He told the two responding officers, “No more. This stops today!”

On this hot July day, Garner, a man who weighed 395 pounds, had asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and an enlarged heart resisted police, flailed his arms and refused to cooperate.  Officer Pantaleo moved in to arrest and subdue him, grabbing Garner from behind and ending up in the oft-reported chokehold. Almost immediately there were more than half a dozen officers on the scene. Also there were remarkably inattentive paramedics who rendered no aid in the crucial early minutes after Garner slammed to the ground and repeatedly uttered, “I can’t breathe.”

Garner was pronounced dead about an hour after this encounter. The medical examiner’s report said the death resulted from a “cascade of events” starting with the chokehold. The M.E. cited Garner’s asthma, heart disease and obesity as contributing factors to this “homicide.” (That designation does not mean a crime has occurred.) It’s likely that if Garner had simply cooperated with police he would not have died that day.

NY Media Coverage Was Split – Cop or Garner to Blame for the Death? Flicker photo

So, did the cascade of events start with the chokehold or did it start when Garner stubbornly refused to cooperate triggering the hands-on confrontation? Should the officers have simply taken Garner’s word that he wasn’t breaking the law and walked away? What personal responsibility does a suspect have if their actions ultimately lead to them being hurt or killed?

In late 2014, a Grand Jury declined to indict Pantaleo.  Last month, after a lengthy investigation by the feds, the U.S. Justice Department decided not to charge officer Pantaleo in Garner’s death.  Garner’s supporters, unhappy with the outcome of this due process, still continue to press for what they call “justice” staging nationwide street protests and the nationally broadcast debate disruption. They want Pantaleo to be held accountable for the death and, at the very least, they want him fired and stripped of his pension.

An administrative law judge recently ruled Pantaleo was “reckless” during the Garner arrest and should be dismissed from the force. But the final decision is up to NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill who says he will likely decide by the end of this month.*  O’Neill is under tremendous pressure from all sides.

Will Garner Protests Continue Now?  Wiki commons photo

The point here is that almost all police involved deaths, including fatal shootings, are a cascade of events. Some occur when an officer confronts a criminal in the act, many happen when police respond to domestic abuse calls which are notoriously dangerous for cops. Sometimes an officer responds with deadly force because they truly fear for their life and the safety of the public. Some are simply accidents.

Are there dangerous, rogue cops that need to be removed? You bet, but the vast majority go to work every day to keep the public peace.

There are 670 thousand full time law enforcement officers in the United States. It is simply not fair to paint them all with the racist brush so many employ these days. Officer Pantaleo was trying to do his job that day, taking an uncooperative suspect into custody. Did Garner’s death result from police brutality, or was it a tragic accident when a much smaller police officer tried to subdue a large suspect who aggressively did not want to comply? Was the fatal health event Garner suffered in his agitated state the cop’s fault or Garner’s own?

Asking these questions is not victim shaming. It is a path to get to the truth. And the truth is, the growing trend toward distrust of police leaves us with officers who can become more preoccupied with protecting themselves and less so with protecting us.



New York Post:  On August 19, 2019 NYPD Commissioner O’Neill called the incident an “irreversible tragedy” and faulted both men for their actions, saying that Garner shouldn’t have resisted arrest and that Pantaleo should have “re-adjusted his grip” after forcing Garner to the sidewalk. O’Neill then announced he had fired Officer Pantaleo. O’Neill added, “If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me” but, noted that his job required him to “think about the rules and regs of the NYPD.”

Pantaleo quickly announced he will sue to try to get his job back.


  1. Diane Dimond on August 19, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Reader Pam Scott writes:

    Eric Garner’s death I agree is complicated and multifaceted. I felt at the time a lack of training on recognizing a medical emergency.was evident. In my opinion police training should include signs and symptoms of true distress.The lack of respect shown to the police men and women when they are the first ones called in our time of need is alarming. I have a deep respect for our police force and support them in many ways.

  2. Diane Dimond on August 19, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Reader William Drummond writes:

    “Involved”? Really?

    • Diane Dimond on August 19, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      Diane Dimond replies:

      Yes, Bill….”The officer involved in the death…” is correct. Factual. If you have more to add than two word questions I wish you would. I like to hear all opinions. And — i’m curious – do you think the obviously un-responsive paramedics were anyway involved in Mr. Garner’s death?

  3. Diane Dimond on August 19, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Reader Joe Woehnker writes:

    What a shame. So many people don’t want to take responsibility for their actions or want to be told to do anything they don’t want to do. As a result, an officer doing his job has lost his job. That is a moral buster for all LEOs that think that could have been them or will be them in the future. So sad. Looks like a ‘win’ for the bad guys.

  4. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Reader Len Potter writes:

    Put your faith and TRUST in no man. We can’t trust each other because we are flawed humans with run away emotions, fragile egos, a need to be right at all costs, and, generally, unhappy with who we are.

  5. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Reader Andy Danish writes:

    I think you know my experience concerning my seizure claim concerning the NYPD and City. The problem is that the City’s liability insurance protects the Police and allows them to make mistakes, break protocol and carry out misconduct. Which is why they don’t hesitate to shoot from the hip. If cops had to carry personal liability insurance you’d see a lot of cops straighten up real fast.

  6. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Reader Eddie Emmons writes:

    You have to kind of step back and put everything in historical perspective…..decades of police brutality and misconduct unchecked…..minorities are angry….ultimately though, every police incident and encounter is a single event that at some point or another might be put under the microscope….therefore people ( huge percentage white) can be resentful all they want… the nature of their jobs, police men and women will continue to be scrutinized….. no free pass any longer…..rightfully so…..

  7. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Reader Kurt K Guy writes:

    No, it was a political decision. Just like the political decision to be more aggressive on those that illegally sell loose cigarettes.
    The Officers should have tased him, but I’m not sure if they even had tasers.
    The fact is almost all departments teach physical tactics in the academy, for a few weeks, NEVER to teach them again.
    If you watch MMA you will witness actually effective chokes. “The rare naked choke” or “the guillotine.”
    This was a half head lock. A real messy ineffective choke done to a not so healthy person. Outcome … pretty much expected.

  8. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:05 am

    Reader Steve Robel writes:

    Andy Danish, until you walk in the shoes of a police officer I think your on going rant has no merit. I think you are forgetting all the positive things police officers do to protect life and property. No doubt, you would be the one that would call 911 and then criticize them after they handle your call. This is the problem with our society, people passing judgment and not knowing what it takes to do the job.

  9. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Reader Sharon Rager writes:

    NO this is a shake down handled in the worst of manners. I detest the way our law enforcement officers are treated. It is shameful and dangerous for us all.

  10. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Reader Sylvia Marciniak writes:

    He should have had the conscience to quit five years ago. I read Taibbi’s book on the case called “Breathe, Breathe.” If Garner was white, this wouldn’t have happened. Eric was trying to support his family. This officer had a history before he met garner.

  11. Diane Dimond on August 20, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    Reader Mark Westerhoff writes:


    Interesting article.

    I believe people rightly distrust police because the laws that apply to us do not apply to law enforcement.

    A man 10 yards away with a knife, a crazy person with a cell phone, or most questionable police shootings would have a civilian charged and convicted. A cop, highly trained, highly armored, and highly armed says “I feared for my life” and walks away. Shoot someone running away with a gun…OK for cops, you go to jail.

    Armed police should be held to the same legal liabilities as you and I are when armed, Two sets of laws breeds distrust and abuse.

    Mark Westerhoff

    • George a Wood on August 24, 2019 at 2:13 pm


      I am a retired detective and spent 30 years as a member of the NYC Police Department. Most of my time was spent working on the streets of the Bronx and Manhattan. I made many arrests of drug dealers, car thieves, burglars, robbers and husbands who assaulted their wives. In many cases suspects would resist arrest and necessary force was needed to effect the arrest.

      Eric Garner made a mistake when he resisted arrest. He was a career criminal with more than 30 arrests and he should have known better .What Officer Pantalco did that day I have done more that 50 times in my career . Mr Garner caused the problem when he resisted arrest.It may come as a surprise to some of your readers that suspects often resist arrest because they have a prior arrest record or have outstanding warrants on prior cases.

      In some cases you have to grab a suspect around to neck to make the arrest. Civilians dont understand that since they have never been in that situation.

      The second mistake that was made was the firing of Officer Pantaleo He was a good cop who was making an arrest and just doing his job.

  12. Walter Szydlowski on August 27, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    You were the first person to take a honest look at the political divide! I read Politcizing coverage! Wish more coverage would be like that!

  13. toncuz on September 9, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    The sad truth is…the anti-brutality movement has been hijacked by the typical race-hustlers demanding their “victimhood”. Less than one-percent of cops ever use their guns.

    The REAL issue that has been ruined by people like Kaepernick pushing this false narrative that “blacks are targeted”…is that racism is barely 5% of the problem, BUT less than one-percent of cops are ever indicted for killing ANY RACE…as white AND black cops protect each other…and their jobs.

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