What to Know
- The NYPD is sharing a video with the entire department, telling officers, "We've got your back," in the wake of a tumultuous week
- On Monday, Commissioner James O'Neill fired officer Daniel Pantaleo over Eric Garner's death, sparking internal controversy
- The head of the police union blasted the commissioner, accusing him of choosing politics and self-interest over the cops he "claims to lead"
The NYPD is sending a clear message to its 36,000 rank-and-file officers following a tumultuous week: We've got your back.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan recorded and shared a more than 5-minute video with the entire force Thursday, days after the firing of officer Daniel Pantaleo over the 2014 death of Eric Garner sent shockwaves rippling through the community of blue.
In the video, Monahan says, "A lot has gone on over the last week. I know as a result of the Pantaleo decision there's a hell of a lot of anger and frustration going out throughout the entire department right now."
Monahan touched on a searing rebuke from the president of the police union, who blasted the decision. Without naming Patrick Lynch, Monahan said, "A lot of advice has been given out to cops on how they should deal with someone who’s resisting arrest, how they should deal with arrests situations. I’m gonna tell you right now that’s pretty bad advice. Anyone who is going to hesitate when they’re going to lock up a bad guy is endangering their own lives. We do not give criminals the upper hand."
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill fired Pantaleo Monday, offering a lengthy and emotional explanation for the termination in which he acknowledged failures on both sides -- Garner, in not complying with arresting officers, and Pantaleo, in not releasing his grip on the 43-year-old father's neck before it became a chokehold. Pantaleo lost his 13-year vested pension, though will get back the contributions he had made over the years.
Referring to the widely watched footage that captured Garner's dying words, O'Neill said, ""Every time I watch that video I say to myself, as I'm sure all of you do, 'Mr. Garner, don't do it. Comply. Officer Pantaleo, don't do it ... But none of us can take back our decisions, most especially when they lead to the death of another human being."
He also admitted his decision was internally controversial, saying, "If I was still a cop I'd probably be mad at me."
The head of the police union eviscerated O'Neill in a scathing statement immediately after the commissioner announced his decision, accusing him of choosing "politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead."
"He will wake up tomorrow to discover that the cop-haters are still not satisfied, but it will be too late. The damage is already done," the statement from Patrick Lynch continued. "The NYPD will remain rudderless and frozen, and Commissioner O’Neill will never be able to bring it back. Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice. We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job. We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety."
Monahan said now is not the time for divisiveness; it's the time to work together. Speaking directly to the NYPD's high ranking officials, Monahan said they need to "get out there with your men, get out there with your women. Wet out there with your personnel be out there standing shoulder to shoulder with them continuing to keep this city safe."
"We can never allow this city to go back to the way it was in the early 90s and I know the men and women in this room and out on the street right now will never let that happen because this is their city," he added.
In firing Pantaleo, O'Neill accepted the decision and recommendation of a department trial judge who found the officer guilty of "reckless assault" in Garner's death and ruled he should be fired.
Pantaleo's attorney has vowed a vigorous appeal of the termination. He never faced criminal charges in Garner's case, which the medical examiner's office ruled a homicide caused in part by the chokehold. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo and federal authorities declined to prosecute on civil rights grounds as their deadline hit this summer.
The Garner family, who received $5.9 million from the city in 2015 to settle a wrongful death claim, and their attorneys have called for the other officers present during the 2014 confrontation to be held accountable and for an investigation to take place as to why officials across the country decided not to bring cases similar to Garner's to federal court.
Just this week, News 4 reported the sergeant who supervised the Garner case would not face department trial, but would be docked 20 vacation days.