August 12, 2014

Police Unions Defend ‘Garner’ Cops, Rip Sharpton and Call Out de Blasio

Blast ME’s ‘Chokehold’ Finding As Political


The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang         
AN ANGRY DEFENSE FROM THE PBA: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch tells reporters Aug. 5 that ‘race-baiters, politicians, pundits and even our elected officials’ are eroding the public’s respect for police officers. Speaking in the wake of controversy over the death of Eric Garner, he urged officers to call for backup when necessary, summon a supervisor and ‘take your time and do the job correctly.’

The presidents of two police unions Aug. 5 minced no words in their defense of the officers whose struggle with Eric Garner when arresting him appeared to cause his death.

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang  
HARSH WORDS FOR A POLICE CRITIC: Sergeants’ Benevolent Association President Edward D. Mullins criticized the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has attacked the NYPD over Mr. Garner’s death. ‘Al Sharpton is not a credible individual,’ he said. ‘He never has been and yet...he’s allowed to sit in City Hall and threaten the Mayor...Al Sharpton gets to determine the course of justice in this city. That’s wrong.’  

AL SHARPTON: Denounced as ‘not credible.’

MAYOR DE BLASIO: Prodded to support police.

“There’s an attitude on our streets today that it is acceptable to resist arrest,” said Patrick J. Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “That attitude is a direct result of the lack of respect for law enforcement resulting from the slanderous, insulting and unjust manner in which police officers are being portrayed by race-baiters, politicians, pundits and even our elected officials.”

‘Just Doing His Job’

The officer who brought Mr. Garner to the ground after he refused to cooperate “went to work with the intention of doing a job, no different than any doctor, firefighter or trucker that’s out there today,” said Edward D. Mullins of the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association. “In any one of those professions, when someone unintentionally loses their life, there’s no public outcry, when a doctor fails to save someone, asking that he be charged with murder and be arrested.”

At a joint press conference at PBA headquarters in lower Manhattan, the pair criticized the Medical Examiner’s conclusion that “compression of neck (chokehold)” contributed to Mr. Garner’s death and excoriated the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is representing Mr. Garner’s family, for his harsh criticism of the Police Department, which included calling on Police Commissioner William J. Bratton to “perp-walk” cops who use chokeholds as a deterrent to use of the NYPD-banned practice.

They also advised their members to protect themselves by following department rules even if it slows response to crimes.

‘Follow the Rulebook’

“New York City police officers should use all the resources of the NYPD to help make the streets safe for all,” Mr. Lynch said. “Call for backup when necessary. Call your supervisor to the scene to assist in effecting that arrest...Take your time and do the job correctly, right and safely.”

“I want you to do your job,” Mr. Mullins said. “I want you to follow the rulebook the way it’s written. If there’s a delay in getting to the next job, so be it. But at the end of the day, each and every member of the NYPD is to go home safe. That’s the bottom line.”

Some observers said the union leaders were calling for a slowdown—which would be illegal under the Taylor Law—but Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor who teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said they were telling officers to take protective measures until the department can make meaningful reforms in regulations and training.

Mr. Lynch and Mr. Mullins told officers to follow the Patrol Guide, a massive collection of rules governing police procedure that Mr. O’Donnell described as “unworkable and in some ways unknowable.” The Patrol Guide is updated after incidents that draw public criticism with the aim of protecting the department, Mr. O’Donnell told THE CHIEF-LEADER.

Major Time Sink

The rules govern how officers drive to an assignment, how they enter a building and everything they do after that, he said, noting that following the Patrol Guide could make many calls into “a 90-minute or two-hour job.”

“Cops see the Patrol Guide as an impediment to doing their job,” he said. Good cops “have to break the rules every day to get the job done,” he added, even though they jeopardize their safety and their careers by doing so. “At any time a rule could be excavated from the Patrol Guide and used against them. Good cops are always at risk.”

He said the call for following the rulebook is a push by the unions for major reforms in the NYPD, including “a set of rules they can live with” and improved training. The situation, he said, is a textbook case of leadership failure, with not only police brass but District Attorneys, the City Council and the State Legislature allowing the situation to deteriorate to the point where “it all falls on one Police Officer.”

Mayor de Blasio was dismissive of the unions’ complaints. “Union leaders will say what union leaders say—that is historic, that’s been going on for decades,” he said in response to a question at City Hall. “We have a job to do, we’re going to do our job. I don’t let the rhetoric of union leaders stand in the way of getting the job done.”

Speak Up, Mr. Mayor

Mr. Lynch said Mr. de Blasio, “needs to say unequivocally, ‘Let the facts speak where they are, let the investigation move forward and equally important, you cannot assault a New York City police officer.’”

Police said Mr. Garner, who had a record of more than 30 arrests, was selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street when officers responding to complaints from merchants tried to arrest him again. He stated that he was not going, and shrugged off an officer who tried to handcuff him.

At that point, that officer, Daniel Pantaleo, grabbed him around the neck and, joined by other officers, brought him to the ground. Mr. Garner, who stood 6-foot-5 and weighed at least 350 pounds, repeatedly shouted, “I can’t breathe,” and Mr. Lynch said the officers reacted as they were trained to do by rolling him on his side. The officers called for an ambulance. Mr. Garner died on the way to the hospital, apparently of a heart attack, after receiving minimal treatment from four emergency medical workers, all of whom have been suspended by Richmond University Medical Center.

PBA: Tragic, But His Fault

The PBA leader called Mr. Garner’s death a tragedy, but said he had set events in motion by resisting arrest. He had to be arrested rather than given a summons because he had been warned and sent on his way for doing the same thing a week earlier, the union president said.

“He was a big man that had to be brought to the ground and placed under arrest by shorter police officers,” Mr. Lynch said. “Sometimes the use of force is necessary, but it is never pretty to watch.”

Video taken by bystanders of the arrest and the aftermath brought a storm of criticism down on the Police Department. Mr. Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun and put on desk duty. Mr. de Blasio promised full investigations by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau. The Police Department has deferred to the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office, which is conducting a criminal investigation.

Harsh Words for Sharpton

At the press conference, the union leaders lit into Reverend Sharpton for statements he made during a roundtable at City Hall July 31 with Mr. de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton.

During the public portion of the meeting, Mr. Sharpton said of the Mayor’s teenage son, “If Dante wasn’t your son, he’d be a candidate for a chokehold.” He said the type of broken-windows policing that resulted in Mr. Garner’s arrest for selling loose cigarettes disproportionately penalized blacks and Latinos.

He scoffed at plans by Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton to retrain all officers on using force. “The best way to make police stop using illegal chokeholds is to perp-walk one of them that did,” he said. “When they understand that they’ve got to pay the price like anybody else that breaks the law, it will send a message that 10 training lessons will not give.”

‘Outrageously Insulting’

Mr. Lynch said, “It is outrageously insulting to all police officers to say that we go out on the streets to choke people of color, as Al Sharpton stated while seated at the table right next to our Mayor at City Hall.”

Asked for Mr. Sharpton’s specific quote, a PBA spokesman said Mr. Lynch’s statement was based on recollections of a participant in the private portion of the meeting.

Sergeant Mullins harkened back to Mr. Sharpton’s defense of Tawana Brawley, the upstate black teenager who maintained nearly 30 years ago that she was raped by law-enforcement officers. She eventually admitted making up the story to avoid punishment from her parents for arriving home late.

“Al Sharpton is not a credible individual,” he said. “He never has been and yet he’s all over the media. He gets front page. He’s allowed to sit in City Hall and threaten the Mayor...Al Sharpton gets to determine the course of justice in this city. That’s wrong.”

ME Comes Under Fire

The union leaders criticized a 34-word communique from the Medical Examiner’s Office that mentioned a chokehold as a cause of death.

“I’ve never seen a document that was more political than that press release released by the ME’s Office, without any medical facts behind it, without the release of the Medical Examiner’s report,” Mr. Lynch said.

“We will defend these police officers,” he continued. “We will get experts in the use of force. This was not a chokehold. We will get medical examiners to go over this autopsy when it is finally released.”

“A chokehold is a completely opposite tactic than what you’re witnessing” in the video of Mr. Garner’s arrest, Mr. Mullins said. He said the neck grab was “a matter of seconds.”