Monday, August 25, 2014

Because of my life, my background and my involvement there is a subject that I cannot ignore. Due to recent cases all over America the focus is on police departments and the possibility of brutality. My name is Serpico and I am proud that I at times am associated with a famous cop in the 1970’s., Frank Serpico who exposed corruption then in the New York City Police Department. There is a book out there called Serpico and a movie where Al Pacino played Frank in the role of a single man who decided to slay the giant of corruption and won.

All of that inspired me to also join the New York City Police Department as a cop but also decided to be an instructor in the Police Academy and a Lawyer working for our present police commissioner Bill who has been commissioner also in Boston. It is always difficult to get a suspect to willingly comply and face the rules of arrest and submit willingly to being handcuffed. Recently a man died in NYC while attempting to handcuff him. The man was very heavy and large and in apparent ill health and was also arrested 31 times before for various crimes. However, no one should die during an arrest even if he does not willingly turn around and put his wrists together.

I applaud our police commissioner in light of the tragic events because he has ordered that “All 35,000 NY Cops are to be re-trained in arrest procedures and the use of force.” It represents a massive overhaul of the entire force. Hopefully, tragedies of this kind will be elevated from the reputation of police forces across America.

It is terrible when a routine arrest goes horribly wrong especially when a man loses his life apparently in the hands of the Police. It was a choke hold caught on tape reverberating across America. It has brought out issues involving race and public safety. The dramatic video has triggered a wave of controversy. It was a violent contravention   on a NYC street that ended with one man, a black man dead. The Police is being accused of using excessive force and even racism.  So how much force is too much force across the country when a suspect refuses to comply and become   arrested?

It all unfolded in a matter of minutes. Two plane clothes police officers confronted 43 year old Eric Garner who was allegedly selling loose cigarettes, a misdemeanor. There was a tense stand-off as Eric protests and the two officers try to physically arrest him. He resists and one of the officers puts his forearm around his neck as other officers arrive and join in, and within seconds the 350 pound man is down on the ground. Eric cries out that he can’t breathe and for several minutes he lays on the ground not moving. Paramedics arrive at the scene and speak to Eric but apparently do not do much. He was taken to the hospital and about an hour later was pronounced dead.

The cause of Eric Garner’s death is still unknown. Autopsy results are expected in several weeks. The case has taken on racial overtones and prompted protests alleging police brutality. No one should have to die while being arrested. Mr. Garner’s medical condition may have been the cause of his death and not the actions of the officers but equally we have to look at the officers actions.  It is not just this case and in this city. Police actions are coming under scrutiny all over the country shinning the spot lite on the practice of choke holds, a technique that most big city police department’s   use that is now banned.

Officers are trained to use the least amount of force. A Carotid Restraint is allowed. The Policeman’s Union says, “ that sometimes force is necessary. At times when officers are required to make an arrest, they must employ the use of force in order to get compliance.” When you resist arrest you are in peril whether you are white or black or any race. The officer who performed the choke hold has been assigned to desk duty. His gun and shield has been taken away.

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