Staten Island Advance
December 4: 8:59 PM, 2014


Despite Eric Garner grand jury decision, NYPD officers say they feel city 'wouldn't have our back'

By JOHN M. ANNESE and MARK STEIN

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Mayor Bill de Blasio's response to the Eric Garner grand jury decision on Wednesday has left NYPD officers feeling "thrown under the bus," a police union official said, according to a report by CBS New York.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association -- the city's police union -- said the mayor failed to "support" NYPD officers during a press conference held in response to the grand jury decision to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner. 

"What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference is that they were thrown under the bus," said Lynch, according to the article. "That they were out there doing a difficult job in the middle of the night, protecting the rights of those to protest, protecting our sons and daughters, and the mayor was behind microphones like this throwing them under the bus."

According to the article, Lynch defended the NYPD on Thursday morning and claimed that criminals are to be feared, not the officers.

"Our city is safe because of police officers," said Lynch. "We have to teach our children, our sons and our daughters, no matter what they look like, to respect New York City police officers, teach them to comply with New York City police officers even if they think it's unjust." 

The mayor released a letter on Thursday, addressing New Yorkers, in regard to death and unveiled plans that will be enforced by the city in an effort to reconcile the relationship between law enforcement and the public.

"This is not the end of the story -- only the end of a chapter," the letter states. "Together, we must work to make this right, to work for justice, and to build the kind of city and the kind of country we need to be. And we will."

The recent events have touched on the issues of racial discrimination and prejudices  and caused activist groups like the Anti-Defamation League to support the efforts of regaining trust among citizens and the police.

"Now more than ever we must confront the prejudice and bigotry that still tarnish our society and ensure that we have a justice system that all American's can trust," according to an ADL press release. "We welcome the strong statements by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD expressing their commitment to rebuild public trust and work together for justice in order to build the kind city and nation we need to be." 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Several police officers tell the Advance they don't feel public officials have their backs after the Eric Garner grand jury decision.

The cops, who asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly about their jobs, echo a sentiment Thursday from Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch that Mayor Bill de Blasio has thrown cops "under the bus."

"When I first took the job, I never thought I would take it personally. After a while, it affects you," said one veteran officer, who also blasted the media for skewing anti-cop. "People in general don't want to look at the good the police has done over the past 20 years ... Everybody thinks that this kid is guilty, even though a grand jury says he wasn't."

The grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner in Tompkinsville. The incident was caught on a widely publicized video, and the grand jury's decision has led to intense national attention and large protests in Manhattan.

Another veteran NYPD officer decried the comments made by the mayor and other elected officials Wednesday night.

"They wouldn't know a chokehold from a full-nelson. All of these guys are race-baiting. There's nothing more. I'm disappointed by the politicians. They should be standing by the system," the officer said.

Some current and retired officers have also fumed that the full details of Garner's criminal history -- which includes 31 arrests, 15 of them since 2006, law enforcement sources said -- have not been aired publicly.

Along with several arrests on untaxed cigarette charges, that history also includes charges for assault, drug dealing and possession and harassment, sources said. At least five of those arrests have since been sealed by the courts, sources said.

Records from the city Correction Department show Garner served 15 separate stints on Rikers Island since 1994, including nearly a full year from 2000-2001 and about seven months in 2008. It's not clear how many of those stemmed from jail sentences after conviction, and how many were pre-trial detentions.

On Thursday, Lynch blasted de Blasio's remarks at a press conference following the grand jury decision.

"What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference is that they were thrown under the bus, that they were out there doing a difficult job in the middle of the night protecting the rights of those to protest, protecting their sons and daughters, and the mayor was behind microphones like this, throwing them under the bus," Lynch said.

One officer said he feels that most of the NYPD, including supervisors, stands behind Pantaleo, but "the top brass is too afraid of the current city leadership to show it."

"I think a lot of cops got the feeling that the city and even the department wouldn't have our back if we were involved in a similar incident," the officer said.

Even so, the officer said, his interactions with the public have been "mainly positive," and several people who support the NYPD have "made a point to approach us and thank us for doing our jobs."

Another cop, who was part of a large force preparing for protests on Staten Island Wednesday night, told the Advance that generally the officers there supported the grand jury decision, but weren't celebrating.

"It's not celebratory at all. We want to make sure the night goes well," the cop said. "Everybody's trying to keep the community calm."