|March 30, 2017|
By Alison Fox
|Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Eric Garner in a chokehold that is banned by the NYPD as officers tried to question him about selling loose cigarettes illegally. (Credit: YouTube)|
In a unanimous decision, an appeals court ruled on Thursday not to release Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s disciplinary record, reversing a lower court’s decision.
The Appellate Division First Department in Manhattan found that Pantaleo’s personnel records are protected under civil rights law that bars their disclosure.
Pantaleo placed Eric Garner in an apparent chokehold on July 17, 2014, when police tried to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island, killing him.
Garner's death, which was ruled a homicide by the city's medical examiner, sparked nationwide protests amid a renewed debate over the treatment of minorities by police. A grand jury in Staten Island declined to indict Pantaleo, however.
Last week, ThinkProgress published Pantaleo’s leaked disciplinary records, showing the officer had 14 complaints filed against him with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, four of which were substantiated. The substantiated allegations, according to the news site, included an abusive vehicle stop in 2011 and an abusive stop-and-frisk in 2012.
In his opinion, Justice John Sweeny Jr. wrote: “Here, in light of the widespread notoriety of Mr. Garner’s death and Officer Pantaleo’s role therein, and the fact that hostility and threats against Officer Pantaleo have been significant enough to cause NYPD’s Threat Assessment Unit to order around-the-clock police protection for him and his family, and notwithstanding the uncertainty of further harassment, we find that the gravity of the threats to Officer Pantaleo’s safety nonetheless demonstrate that disclosure carries a ‘substantial and realistic potential’ for harm, particularly in the form of ‘harassment and reprisals,”’ and that nondisclosure of the requested records under Civil Rights Law section 50-a is warranted.”
The reversal was applauded by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
"The release of police officers' personnel files poses a grave safety risk for police officers and their families. Now that these important protections have been reaffirmed, they need to be vigorously enforced," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement.