The unions representing NYPD officers and sergeants blasted the “haters” they say are denigrating police offers in the wake of Eric Garner’s death.
Union leaders from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association aggressively criticized Rev. Al Sharpton and elected officials today at a tense press conference in downtown Manhattan. They argued that Mr. Garner was a repeated lawbreaker who resisted arrest and wasn’t actually placed in a chokehold–repudiating the mayor, police commissioner and a New York City Medical Examiner’s report they called “blatantly political.”
“There’s a 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,” PBA President Patrick Lynch charged.
“There is an attitude by the criminal element that resisting arrest is condoned and not taken seriously,” he added.
Mr. Garner, who was black, died on July 17 in Staten Island after police placed him in an apparent chokehold. Police targeted Mr. Garner because he was selling illegal cigarettes. Garner, who was caught on videotape crying “I can’t breathe,” died of a homicide, according to the Medical Examiner on Friday. His death has ignited new controversy over how police interact with civilians, particularly minorities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have said Mr. Garner was placed in a chokehold, a prohibited maneuver. While Mr. Bratton said race was not a factor in Mr. Garner’s death, Mr. Sharpton and some elected officials say the confrontation was racially-motivated.
Union leaders told a very different story today. They said Mr. Garner should not have been administered CPR at the scene because he was still breathing and contended cops brought down Mr. Garner appropriately since he was much larger than any of them.
Mr. Lynch and Sergeant’s Benevolent Association President Edward Mullins also said Mr. Sharpton, a leading critic of the cops, had “no credibility” and didn’t belong in City Hall, where he played a prominent role at a round table addressing Mr. Garner’s death last week. Mr. Sharpton said that he would not be satisfied until the police involved in controversies like Mr. Garner’s were thrown in prison.
“Al Sharpton is not a credible individual. He never has been yet he’s all over the media. He gets front page,” Mr. Mullins said. “He’s allowed to sit in City Hall and threaten the mayor. We only need to look at Tawana Brawley, Gavin Cato in Brooklyn, ties to organized crimes and narcotics, yet Al Sharpton gets to determine the direction of justice in this city. It’s wrong, it’s completely wrong.”
For Mr. Lynch, the round table—that included Mr. Bratton, clergy leaders and a Staten Island elected officials—was a biased endeavor because “pro-police” voices were not present. He complained about the new outsized role Mr. Sharpton has at City Hall and called on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who promised to reform stop-and-frisk when he was elected, to say unequivocally that he supports police officers.
Mr. Sharpton, in a phone interview with the Observer after the press conference, called the union leaders’ barbs “absurd, childish noise.”
“Clearly, if we’re going to establish a policy that’s fair to New Yorkers, we have to do it without a lot of the distortions, name-calling and immaturity. I’m not going to stoop to their level,” Mr. Sharpton said, adding that people like President Barack Obama have vouched for his credibility. “We’re calling for equal enforcement of the law. A chokehold is illegal: period.”
The union heads also claimed police officers in Mr. de Blasio’s city are not respected, and are increasingly placed in harm’s way because New Yorkers believe they can resist arrest. He said, without providing exact statistics, that assaults on cops are on the rise. Mr. Lynch also rejected the notion that there should be a federal investigation into Mr. Garner’s death, arguing instead that Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan—a Republican who has run with the backing of police unions—should handle the case alone.
“I think the mayor needs to support New York City police officers, unequivocally say it and unequivocally say resisting arrest hurts everyone, police officers and citizens alike, and it will not be tolerated,” Mr. Lynch said. “He needs to say it and needs to say it forcefully. Police officers don’t feel that they’re getting the support that they need for the job that they do.”