The Different Situations Involving Daniel Pantaleo And Darren Wilson

Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson have a lot in common. Both are police officers, sworn to protect and serve, with similar tenures; Pantaleo had been employed for eight years, Wilson six. Pantaleo and Wilson were both employed by mostly white forces. Both used force in the line of duty, resulting in the deaths of unarmed black men. And both were spared trials for wrong doing when their respective grand juries declined to indict them. The similarities between the situations involving the two officers pretty much end there.

While Wilson was the sole responding officer to a somewhat violent crime — a large man had robbed a convenience store with an accomplice, and roughed up the store owner in the process — Pantaleo was one of nearly a half dozen officers arresting the alleged perpetrator of a relatively victimless crime. Eric Garner became the focus of police after they were called for a fight between two other men. Mr. Garner had broken the fight up. Pantaleo and the other officers did not pursue the men who fought, but turned their attentions to Mr. Garner, whom they accused of selling untaxed illegal cigarettes, but his activities were not the reason the police had been called out in the first place. Regardless, under the auspices of the “broken window” theory of policing, they decided to arrest Mr. Garner. Understandably, he became perturbed. As his agitation increased, police upped the pressure and decided to apprehend him. This decision did not calm Mr. Garner. Pantaleo jumped the man from behind, pressing his forearm to Mr. Garner’s trachea and dragging him to the ground.

Four officers arresting Mr. Garner
Four officers arresting Mr. Garner

The NYPD banned the use of “choke holds” in 1993. The department does allow a “sleeper hold” in extreme circumstances. The difference: Choke holds restrict airflow, can cause injury, and have led to many deaths. Sleeper holds place the trachea in the crook of the elbow, protecting the airway while restricting blood flow to the brain temporarily, usually causing a brief blackout. Both are pretty drastic and rife with danger, but the sleeper hold could potentially be used to subdue individuals, such as the mentally or emotionally challenged, without using painful debilitating tools such as tasers. Pantaleo, despite his protests, clearly used a choke hold, not a sleeper hold.

President Obama want to put body cameras on all officers, but it doesn’t seem that proof is the problem. Wilson argued that he was in fear for his life. There were conflicting eye-witness reports, but no video to conclusively show what happened. Pantaleo could not use the same argument. He had multiple officers for backup. The “perpetrator” had not acted aggressively towards Pantaleo. There was no question of what actually happened because there was a video.

It didn’t matter. Pantaleo, an officer who was not in fear of his life, used a banned hold on a man who should not have crossed his radar. That man died. His death was ruled a homicide by the coroner. The grand jury still decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo. Was race the issue? Was it the win at all costs mentality of many police departments? Or was it the inherent belief in authority that thwarted Pantaleo’s indictment? Some are arguing that the grand jurors, as law abiding citizens, are predisposed to defer to the judgments of authority figures such as Daniel Pantaleo. They believe that if an officer uses force, it was because he has no choice.

We are seeing, more and more, that that rationale does not hold up. Cleveland’s police department just received a scathing review from federal official. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the department has too long a history of excessive force. As the Inquistr reported, Holder is also going to look into the debacle in Staten Island with Pantaleo and Eric Garner. Unarmed black men losing their lives to armed white officers like Pantaleo has sparked national debate and conversations. While #BlackLivesMatter, really, every life matters. Abuse of authority should never be tolerated. Did Pantaleo go rouge? Or did he act accordingly? Protesters are marching in many cities showing what they think.

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