My Expat Perspective on the Death of Eric Garner

There has been much in the news about the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, who were killed by police, and the subsequent protests that followed a decision not to indict the officers involved in Brown’s and Garner’s death – Rice’s death is under investigation to see if an indictment will happen.

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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10 thoughts on “My Expat Perspective on the Death of Eric Garner

  1. ldr13 says:

    As much as I have always stuck up for America and Americans (Canadians tend to be very snooty towards America) there are definitely some politics and cultural differences that I just can’t wrap my head around. I’ve only started to notice recently just how different the atmosphere is in the States from here.

    I cannot judge the nation as a whole because there are all kinds of individuals there; many whom I am friends with and who are good people. But after travelling to the south many times I have started to notice the animosity between different races, and a sort of culture of ‘who can shout the loudest,’ and unfortunately there tends to be a lot of loud, in-your-face hate (whether it’s over race, sexual orientation, religion, etc, etc,.). I feel like America has some of the sweetest people you will ever meet, but an unfortunate amount of intolerant and aggressive types who tend to give them a bad name. I also find their justice system tends to be overly harsh or insanely lax (not to say ours is perfect because it isn’t. Ours tends to be lax in general; if someone breaks into your house and hurts themselves they can sue you… how dumb is that?).

    While there are aspects of the States that I like, I feel like in the past few years I’ve been disillusioned, and I can understand the anger over these trials. My boyfriend, being a British citizen is treated very differently than I am everytime we cross the border. While I am always waved through, he gets fingerprints taken, photo taken, and a slurry of questions. Because he doesn’t have a Canadian or American passport he’s treated like a criminal. When we’ve been held up at the border I notice that there is a satirical amount of people who are of a different colour or religion. And there are quite a few similar instances I have noticed. It makes me sick and it makes me angry, and I don’t even live there and I haven’t been the recipient of this kind of treatment. I try not to get angry and I have to step back and think ‘this isn’t true of all America or all Americans’ but I can definitely sympathize with the people angry over these trials. At the same time you can’t fight hate with hate.

    Then as you mention, there is also the issue of police in general who seem to be above the law and we have the same issue here. Police in Canada and the States are using much more force than is necessary and need to be watched more closely and punished for wrongdoings. I was shocked that the police in England didn’t carry guns; I’ve always pictured the police in England to have more force than ours as England seems to be a bigger target for terrorism etc,. than Canada. I feel safe and secure knowing our police carry guns if need be; I feel as though police without guns are a bit useless, but then that is only because it is what I have grown up with. Perhaps England’s is a better model; I’d have to look at the statistics to find that out.

    I just hope that America will progress and become a place with more acceptance and tolerance and love; in fact I hope that will be the case with all countries and all people.

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    • Molly @ The Move to America says:

      Thank you so much for your comment – it is really interesting to read your perspective, especially with your British boyfriend and experiences of the questioning he goes through. I have not encountered this myself yet – but I have seen footage of immigration checkpoints, that are set up miles before an actual border (so really no need as essesntially the checks are still in America) and peole are asked if the are a US citizen or not, and if not you are taken off for questioning!

      With regards to the police here, there are so many good people in the force, but lately my faith in that has been so shaken by the recent events. I think it just seems incredibly unfair and like there is a bias. It is a wonderful place to live, I am so grateful to be here, but my goodness there does seem to be an uglier underbelly than I had anticipated. These ‘underbellies’ are present in every country, including the UK, I just hope that something good will come out of the overwhelming feeling that an indictment, in Eric Garner’s case (but not exculusive to him – it was just who I wrote about in ths post) should have happened.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachael Knowles says:

    It does seem strange when you consider that a British Police officer would be on suspension faster than you can say Police Complaints Commission for an allegation of inappropriate treatment of a member of the public, let alone any involvement with a death in custody!

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    • Molly @ The Move to America says:

      Exactly – I could not shake the feeling that it wouldn’t happen like that in the UK, but maybe that is too over simplistic a thought. I know a proper investigation would occur as a matter of course, there would be no thought to take it down a formal route – unlike here.

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  3. Susan says:

    I haven’t followed this story or the Ferguson, Missouri story as closely as I should. What I’ve noticed, though, is that both men were resisting arrest. If they had simply listened, I’m hoping the situation in both cases would not have escalated. That said, I do think the cop used excessive force in the case of Eric Garner. I have to ask if these two men really expected a good outcome when they were resisting. I also think that police departments have to do a better job with hiring police officers. Even one bad hiring choice, as is seen in this case, can have horrible consequences. Eric Garner had many arrests dating back quite a few years, and it included selling “loosies”, and also resisting arrest. Personally I’m tired of people breaking the law in one way or another and then expecting a better outcome. Criminals have too many rights here, I also think. The cop in the Garner case needs to be thoroughly investigated, but these men need to step up and act like men. Race relations are not good in the US.

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    • Molly @ The Move to America says:

      I agree that resisting arrest is never a good idea – even if it seems unfair, at least hope that if you go with it you get to fight it through a complaint system or in an official capacity – although that too may have its problems.
      The officer who used a banned chokehold should be investigated as the death was ruled a homicide – something that should automatically be formally investigated. Better training and vetting of the police can only be a good thing too – as you mentioned.
      Eric Garner may have had many arrests from over the years, but he still had the right to live – even when resisting arrest. He still had the right to be restrained in a manner that was legal and as safe as it could be – and because it wasn’t, Officer Pantaleo should have been indicted.
      Thank you so much for you comment – I appreciate the input and have much to think on here.

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  4. seychellesmama says:

    Oh Molly I am covered in goosebumps reading this post!! As a general rule we stay pretty sheltered from the news living here in the Seychelles. I kinda choose it to be that way if I’m brutally honest. However these stories are not ones that can be hidden from. They are terrifying. Having lived in America myself for almost three years in my late teens I can kind of relate to the feelings you are having…..that lack of being able to grasp the justice system, sometimes it seems unfathomable!!
    A wonderful post, although one that in an ideal world would never need to be written!!
    Thank you so much for sharing with #myexpatfamily as usual I love your take on it!!

    Like

    • Molly @ The Move to America says:

      It really is an odd feeling, maybe made more intense because I am an expat, as it is something I had been aware of but not given so much thought to. It was not something I considered I would have to get to grips with.
      Thanks for hosting the link up – it is a great idea!

      Like

  5. Sara (@mumturnedmom) says:

    Like you, I have really struggled with these cases, in the UK there would be an investigation, charges, something! Whether resisting arrest or not, excessive force resulting in a homicide is a crime. I love living here, and we have decided to stay for a lot longer than we expected to, but stories like this really worry me. However similar the US and UK are, there are some stark and fundamental cultural differences. Great post Molly, well done for writing about it xx #myexpatfamily

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    • Molly @ The Move to America says:

      That is exactly what I have been trying to wrap my thoughts around too – whether resisting arrest or not, excessive force, or even the use of a banned hold, resulting in a homicide is a crime. This kind of difference to how a country operates is going to take some getting used to!

      Thank you so much for your comment!

      Like

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