I have not been living in this country long enough to get to grips with, and understand all aspects of, the cultural subtleties here – but there is something that has had me taking a really careful look at the way society can sometimes work or behave in America.
There has been much in the news lately about the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice – to name a few – who have been killed by police, and the subsequent protests that are fuelled by the decision not to indict the officers involved in Brown’s and Garner’s death – Rice’s death is currently being investigated to see if it will progress to an indictment.
I come from a country that does not have police armed with guns as a norm for patrolling the streets, so I find it difficult to comment on that as it is so out of my realm of experience, but the death of Eric Garner – which was deemed to have resulted from compression of the neck and body and the prone positioning he was in, with his asthma, heart disease and obesity being contributing factors – is something I wanted to write about.
The police officer who compressed his neck, by putting him in a chokehold which had been banned by the New York City Police Department will not face indictment – even though Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide.
This is the part I find most disturbing. I find it so disturbing because, no matter what you think about the character/motives/actions of Garner or Officer Pantaleo who used the chokehold – I always had the belief that in this country, if a death is ruled a homicide that there would always be a formal charge/investigation, a time in court, with some kind of punishment, if found guilty, that resulted in time in prison. Maybe that is simplistic, but I had faith in the justice system here, that if a homicide is found to have occurred, then the person responsible for that homicide would be held accountable. I thought that was just the way things work here.
It seems that you can kill someone, and their death be ruled a homicide, and no formal accountability is taken. Officer Pantaleo has been stripped of his badge and gun – but in my mind this does not reflect what should happen in a homicide case – there should always be an indictment when a police officer is involved – this at least gives the officer their day in court – like anyone else would have to go through. By not indicting an officer in the case of a death ruled as a homicide, it gives the impression that there is an element of bias – irrespective of race – in the favour of the police, which then leads to a perspective that some officers are above the law.
I thought there was an innate sense of fairness in this country, and the death of Eric Garner, ruled as a homicide, where the officer is not indicted seems, at best, unfair, but at worst, something far more insidiously pervasive.
I am not saying Officer Pantaleo should be thrown to the wolves, I just really believe he should have his day in court.
What are your thoughts?
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