Lawmakers split over O'Neill's decision to fire Pantaleo

Cheryl Sanders
August 20, 2019

Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who was famously caught on video with his arm around the neck of Eric Garner, leading to Garner's death, was sacked on Monday.

The Staten Island grand jury and the Department of Justice failed to bring any criminal charges against Pantaleo.

The coroner also had ruled Garner's death a homicide, but Pantaleo has escaped state and federal prosecution despite the fact that the NYPD has long outlawed the chokehold as a detainment technique.

But this month Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado, a department judge, found that Pantaleo was guilty of "reckless" misconduct, renewing hope that the officer could be fired.

At a recent administrative trial at New York Police Department headquarters, Pantaleo's lawyers argued he used an approved "seat belt" technique to subdue Garner, who refused to be handcuffed after officers accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. This decision was announced the day before the five-year anniversary of Garner's death.

During the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit last month, de Blasio received jibes about not firing Pantaleo from fellow candidate Sen.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Mr Pantaleo's sacking would bring justice to Garner's family.

Maldonado went on to say that the evidence contradicted Pantaleo's rationalization that the positioning of his elbow protected Garner from being choked and that Pantaleo's police academy instructor, retired Sgt Russell Jung, gave "unpersuasive testimony on critical factual issues". "You finally made the decision that should have been made 5 years ago", Garner's daughter Emerald Garner said Monday. The decision was celebrated by the officer's supporters - but also sparked renewed protests over police violence.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York City, said that O'Neill has "chosen politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead".

The firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo on Monday drove a wedge between city lawmakers - with Republicans slamming the decision and Mayor Bill de Blasio and fellow Democrats applauding the move. What's more, he said he had no intentions to speak with Pantaleo in person at any point.

"I should not be here standing with my brother, fatherless", she said.

"I may have made similar mistakes", O'Neill said of Pantaleo's actions.

O'Neill has been deliberating whether to accept a disciplinary judge's recommendation that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for using a banned chokehold on Eric Garner.

De Blasio's allies in the civil rights movement condemned him for the standoffish attitude.

Asked whether he was anxious the police union might start encouraging officers to drag their feet when making arrests, De Blasio said he was certain officers would "do their job".

Lynch, however, called on officers to "proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality". "We will uphold our oath, but we can not and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety".

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