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Community Leaders & New Yorkers Impacted by Discriminatory Policing Demand Full Accountability for All NYPD officers Involved in Eric Garner’s Death, Zero Tolerance for All Police Brutality

Groups call for de Blasio Administration to do more than just new NYPD training to prevent police brutality, end discriminatory and abusive Broken Windows policing

New Yorkers impacted by discriminatory policing were joined by elected officials and community leaders on the steps of City Hall to demand that all NYPD officers involved in the incident leading to Eric Garner’s death be held fully accountable, and that the de Blasio administration enforce zero tolerance for all police brutality and halt discriminatory, abusive broken windows policing.

“The police brutality that stole Eric Garner from his family, and has taken the lives of so many other Black and Latino New Yorkers must end,” said Priscilla Gonzalez of Communities United for Police Reform. “Serious change is needed that proddvides full accountability for all the officers responsible and ensures there is zero tolerance for all police brutality. The de Blasio administration must also come to terms with the role broken windows plays in the abuse of communities of color. The hyper-enforcement of minor infractions that disproportionately targets communities of color must end for police-community relations to truly improve in any meaningful way.”

Eric Garner died two weeks ago after a NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold that had been a prohibited NYPD procedure for over 20 years while other officers “pounced” on him as he appealed that he could not breathe. So far, only two of the officers involved in the incident have had their assignments changed, but there were at least six officers on the scene involved in the encounter. National civil rights organization ColorOfChange has launched a petition across the country aimed at Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton and Staten Island District Attorney Donovan seeking justice for Garner’s death and systemic change.

“The ColorOfChange community is deeply saddened and outraged by NYPD's killing of Eric Garner. More than 40,000 ColorOfChange members have demanded full accountability for the officers involved and an end to the dangerous and discriminatory policies that led to this tragic police killing,” said ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson. “In order for these sorts of violent and deadly encounters with police to end, it is critical that all of the officers involved are fired and held accountable by the criminal justice system. It's also imperative that Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton show leadership by holding all of the officers and the NYPD accountable and ending dangerous and discriminatory policing practices like “Broken Windows", and the violence that these practices create.”

Eric Garner is the latest unarmed New Yorker of color, among dozens over the past several years, to die at the hands of the NYPD – others include Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell, and Anthony Baez. Following most of these incidents, the criminal justice system, previous mayoral administrations and the NYPD have failed to hold the officers fully accountable for their use of excessive, deadly force. After these unjust deaths, previous administrations have frequently pledged new training for the NYPD but it has failed to prevent these incidents from continuing to occur.

“Neither the problem nor the solution to systemic police brutality is simply new training, as Commissioner Bratton has indicated and we heard after the deaths of our sons and so many other New Yorkers,” said Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, and Iris Baez, the mother of Anthony Baez. “It is the lack of true accountability that has allowed officers to continue to abuse, and too often kill, New Yorkers without fear of real consequences. The solution is full accountability for all officers, and an end to the irrational hyper-enforcement of minor infractions that targets communities of color, led to the explosion of stop-and-frisk abuses and the unjust deaths of dozens of Black and Latino New Yorkers, including our sons.”

“Sadly, Eric Garner is one of dozens of Black and brown New Yorkers who have unjustly lost their lives to the NYPD,” said Loyda Colon, Justice Committee Co-Director. “Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell, and Noel Polanco are just a few other examples.  To date, none of their families have seen any kind of justice. The NYPD continually fails to adequately discipline officers who use excessive force and the criminal justice system continually fails to hold them accountable. This creates a culture within the Department in which brutality is condoned.”

While NYPD officers claimed Garner was selling “loosie” cigarettes, witnesses at the scene indicated that the police action was prompted by a fight that Mr. Garner had diffused. In just the last week, videos of other recent incidents of police brutality resulting from encounters arising from broken windows hyper-enforcement of minor infractions have surfaced. In one from Bedford-Stuyvesant, an officer can be seen stomping on a man’s head while he is handcuffed on the ground after the officer has already pulled his gun on the unarmed civilian who is restrained on the ground. Another recorded incident shows a NYPD officer using the prohibited chokehold on a pregnant woman for the alleged violation of barbecuing on the sidewalk in East New York. Another video recorded at a Harlem subway station by a clergy member shows an officer once again using the prohibited chokehold while punching a young man in the face until he is bloodied for allegedly jumping a turnstile.

“Policies of over-policing in low income communities of color, like Stop, Question and Frisk and Broken Windows, devalue and dehumanize the lives of black and brown people,” said Keeshan Harley, a youth leader of Make the Road New York. “Too often, we see our people brutalized and even killed at the hands of police. These oppressive policies and aggressive practices must end for us to build positive, safe communities.”

“I know firsthand how NYPD’s aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses can quickly escalate into police violence and wrongful arrests,” said Felipe Rodriguez, member of VOCAL-New York, recounting a recent experience he had. “When I was walking through the Red Hook housing projects, undercover officers ran up on me and began aggressively questioning me. I tried to stay calm, but it was like they kept trying to bait me to get me to react. When I told them I didn’t live in the projects, but was just walking through, they charged me with trespassing. I spent 24-hours in jail and was manhandled just for taking the fastest route to where I was going. How does NYPD expect people to keep their cool when they so clearly violate our rights?”

The wisdom of the over-aggressive enforcement of minor infractions that led to the NYPD encounter with Eric Garner and his death, and targets communities of color, has recently been questioned by law enforcement experts, editorial boards and elected officials. Many have raised the issue of its counterproductive role in improving the frayed relationship between communities and the NYPD in the wake of stop-and-frisk abuses that targeted the same communities.

“The tensions between the NYPD and communities of color are much deeper than the pain caused by this most recent tragedy,” said Assembly Member Karim Camara, Chair of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.  “And while it is important for an investigation to ensue, one cannot believe that any facts that emerge will contradict the indications that Mr. Garner’s death was unjust and unnecessary. The failure of the New City Police Department to look at how it is reflected in the community, from flawed strategies to frayed relationships, is an indicator that the problem is not just a challenge of fixing 'broken windows' in the community, but must begin with the NYPD fixing its 'broken mirrors'.”

“It is no question that our city has historically struggled with racial tensions between the police department and New Yorkers of more color,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), Deputy Leader, Chair of the Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee. “Our current Administration has taken strides in addressing this issue, at the same time we need to make a real systemic cultural shift within the NYPD when it comes to issues of race and class. Without fully acknowledging and focusing on that change, any policing policy or theory, even if well intentioned will be doomed to fall into the historic patterns. Broken Windows is not exempted. We owe it to the men and women in blue who risk their lives daily for us and need all NYC communities support to be effective. And we owe it to the men and women of more color who deserve to walk the streets of New York City without worrying if they will be the next victim of bias-based police brutality.”

“The death of Eric Garner painfully highlights how far we still have to go to end discriminatory policing and improve police/community relations,” said Council Member Brad Lander, Deputy Leader for Policy.  “While Mayor deBlasio has taken some important steps – appointing the first NYPD IG, dropping the City’s lawsuit against the Community Safety Act, and changing the tone from City Hall – our city still has so much to do.  We need genuine accountability for all the NYPD officers involved in death of Eric Garner, and zero tolerance for acts of police abuse or brutality.  We must also take a hard look at NYPD policies of aggressive enforcement of minor infractions, overwhelmingly of people of color, to make sure we are not recreating discriminatory policing, with deeply troubling collateral consequences.”

“As a young man of color, I am deeply troubled by the NYPD’s persistent push to arrest individuals for minor infractions, especially when we know this practice unfairly targets low-income young men of color and deepens the fractures between communities and the police,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “The death of Eric Garner is a tragic example of how overzealous policing can escalate into policy brutality, and why we need to put an immediate end to the over aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses.”

“New York's finest are capable of protecting safety without making whole communities afraid of the very people who are supposed to keep them safe,” said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “Public safety requires that all New Yorkers trust and respect the police. Kids shouldn't be afraid to talk to the cops because they'll end up in jail for riding a bike on the sidewalk or having their foot on the seat of a deserted subway.”

“It’s a no brainer. Videotapes don’t lie. We saw what we saw; the police violated another person of color in the streets of New York City. The only way to bring public support and trust out of a situation that has AGAIN harmed so many, Commissioner Bratton must hold these officers accountable and punishable to the extent of the law,” said Council Member Andy King, co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus.

“The healthcare workers of 1199SEIU have dedicated our lives to caring for New Yorkers, and that mission extends into all our communities to make sure our families and neighbors can live with safety, dignity and respect,” said Maria Castaneda, Secretary-Treasurer of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union in New York and the largest healthcare union in the nation. “We again extend our deepest condolences to the family of Eric Garner – a son, husband, father and grandfather.  It is a shame that we are standing here once again, mourning the death of another African American man at the hands of the police.  The killing must stop.  The NYPD must end discriminatory policing in our communities.   We are committed to organize with our community allies, standing here today, to make sure Eric Garner’s death is not in vain and that we put an end to abusive police tactics.”

“New Yorkers witnessed an unnecessary tragedy on July 17th when Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by police officers,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez, co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus. “While chokeholds are illegal, recent videotapes have shown that it is a commonly used procedure by too many officers within the Department.  In the case of Eric Garner, we need to see a grand jury convened; and in all of the chokehold cases, we need to see disciplinary actions for all officers involved, not just retraining on protocols and policies.”

“The death of Eric Garner was preventable.  It was a tragic example of how ‘broken windows’ policing targets low-income people and people of color with aggressive tactics for minor infractions,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso - District 34. “We need to make sure that all officers involved are held accountable for their actions, and we need to have a citywide conversation about how to ensure these types of incidents do not continue to occur.”


About Communities United for Police Reform

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory policing practices in New York, and to build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and policing practices based on cooperation and respect– not discriminatory targeting and harassment.

CPR brings together a movement of community members, lawyers, researchers and activists to work for change. The partners in this campaign come from all 5 boroughs, from all walks of life and represent many of those unfairly targeted the most by the NYPD. CPR is fighting for reforms that will promote community safety while ensuring that the NYPD protects and serves all New Yorkers.

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Topics: Eric Garner