Congressmen Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks said today that Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan’s relationship with the New York City Police Department precludes his office from having a fair and transparent investigation into the homicide of Eric Garner, and called for United States Attorney General Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to step in.
Garner, 43, died last month after a cop placed him in an apparent chokehold while seeking to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
Mr. Meeks and Mr. Jeffries–along with Congressmen Charlie Rangel and Jose Serrano, and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke and Nydia Velazquez–penned a letter to Mr. Holder calling for an immediate investigation into both the Staten Island fatality and the NYPD’s “broken windows” policy, which they argued has led directly to the unfair targeting of blacks and Hispanics.
The Brooklyn and Queens representatives both argued the nature of Mr. Donovan’s position requires close cooperation with the police in the prosecution of most crimes, and could result in a conflict, though district attorneys in the city are often tasked with investigating or prosecuting police.
“The Staten Island district attorney, like all the other district attorneys in all the boroughs and across the country, has an institutional relationship with the police,” said Mr. Jeffries. “This case requires special attention.”
Mr. Jeffries also lamented what he perceived as a general lack of speed and transparency in the investigation–even as Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Garner’s arrest, and his wife have been respectively arrested and processed for a gun charge and misdemeanor assault.
“It is quite troubling for a lot of people across this country that the person who took the video was arrested and run through the system,” he said. “We’ve heard nothing from the Staten Island district attorney.”
Mr. Meeks noted that Mr. Donovan will have to work with the police department in the future, and should not want to see his work with them complicated in any way–and even suggested that Mr. Donovan himself should invite a federal investigation.
“We don’t want the police not cooperating with the DA on other cases,” said Mr. Meeks. “It seems to me that even the DA should be calling on someone else to look into this matter.”
Mr. Donovan’s office declined to address the congressman’s remarks, other than to say that they would continue to look into the fatal incident.