Forget Ferguson for just a minute. Everyone has already made up their minds about what has happened to an extent that further discussion about the issues raised by the interaction between Wilson and Brown have been obscured by the disputes about the facts of the particular case. As I said yesterday, it sure would have been nice if we had video of the incident, but we don’t, so we are left to yell at each other based on eyewitness testimony.
The case of Eric Garner, who was killed in what the medical examiner ruled homicide when he was put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer, officers no such bitter factual dispute. Thankfully, we have video of exactly what happened to Garner, who was subjected to clearly excessive force despite clearly offering no resistance or threat to the officers present at all, and who died as a result of that force.
Unfortunately for Garner, this will not help his family get justice as a Staten Island Grand Jury has decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo. This decision is really and truly baffling to me, and infuriating besides. I understand the vast majority of cops are good at their jobs and conscientious about protecting the civil rights of citizens. But there are without a doubt bad cops who make bad decisions and when they do so from a position of authority the damage they can do is exponentially worse.
And the problem we have is that no one is practicing effective oversight in many cases with respect to who belongs in which camp. Just last year, Newsday ran a damning report about the police in New York in particular and the endemic misconduct over which virtually no oversight is conducted. If you read only one thing today, read this.
And now, because the police earn such automatic and unjustified trust in the minds of so many, even on the rare occasion that a cop is actually videotaped, the criminal justice system cannot be trusted to provide effective oversight.