BOROUGHWIDE — Following the firing of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the Conservative Party issued a joint statement from its New York State Chair Jerry Kassar and its five city chairs condemning the action and claiming that the NYPD had caved to political pressure.
On July, 2014, Pantaleo used a banned chokehold on Eric Garner, who was resisting arrest for selling illegal loose cigarettes on Staten Island. After struggling with the police, Garner pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” as police tried to subdue him. Garner died shortly after arriving at Richmond University Medical Center.
A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo following Garner’s death, and the Justice Department also declined to charge him with violating Garner’s civil rights. However, an administrative judge recommended Pantaleo be removed from duty following an internal disciplinary trial.
On Monday, Aug. 19, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill fired Pantaleo, who had been placed on desk duty following Garner’s death, claiming that the officer had violated policy by restraining Garner with a prohibited chokehold.
According to a statement, the New York State Conservative Party believes that O’Neill and the NYPD fired Pantaleo for “simply doing his job,” claiming that it was obvious Pantaleo would be fired when Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed that Garner’s family was “going to get justice…in the next 30 days,” during a Democratic presidential primary debate on July 31.
The Conservative Party believes that de Blasio’s comments politicized Garner’s unfortunate and untimely death, in complete disregard to the fact that Pantaleo had not been indicted by a grand jury.
“The Conservative Party disagrees with NYPD Commissioner O’Neill’s decision to fire Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Multiple investigations on various levels and a grand jury probe determined that his actions did not violate the laws,” said Kassar.
Bronx Chair William Newmark agreed with PBA President Pat Lynch who stated that “O’Neill chose politics over the police officers he claims to lead,” a comment echoed by Thomas Long, who chairs the Queens County Conservative Party organization, and who questioned “the ability of the NYPD to turn around plummeting morale” in the wake of Pantaleo’s firing.
“The system up until this point worked,” added Brooklyn Conservative Chair Fran Vella-Marrone. “It evaluated the information as presented and concluded that Pantaleo was innocent. The commissioner’s decision is unjust.”
Manhattan Chair Stuart Avrick expressed his frustration with the lack of respect for those in authority. “I would expect in light of this firing that all New York City police officers will be extraordinarily cautious in doing their jobs, knowing that the department will not back them,” he said.
Liam McCabe, former City Council candidate and president of the Verrazzano Republicans, called Garner’s death a tragedy for his family and the city as a whole, but also said that Pantaleo should not have been fired for the outcome of what he called “a legitimate arrest.”
“Pantaleo did not act recklessly or cause the death of Mr. Garner as both grand jury and Justice Department investigations as well as the medical examiner’s office found,” said McCabe. “It is predictable yet sad that Commissioner O’Neill is simply carrying out the orders of his boss, Bill de Blasio. However much more troubling is the response from local reps., who do not answer to the mayor, but who tripped over themselves to see who could praise the decision with more gusto, volume, and speed than the other.”
McCabe also expressed his dismay with the lack of respect for police officers. “It is such a shame for the many families of police officers that are more heavily represented in their districts than other places in New York City, especially at a time when our NYPD officers are being assaulted with impunity in the streets of our city and are taking their own lives in record numbers,” added McCabe.
The Conservative Party statement concluded by saying that “New Yorkers are less safe now, knowing that every decision made by police officers will be judged by those who are not present and only know the results.”
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis called Garner’s death a tragedy for everyone connected to it including the Garner family, the arresting officers, the NYPD and the entire city.
“A life was lost, careers have been ruined, lives have been turned upside down and a police force has lost faith in its leadership and our mayor,” said Malliotakis.
“After five years of investigations and pages of testimony by a variety of witnesses and experts, only one point has remained constant; if Eric Garner had not resisted and went peacefully with the police, he would have not died that day,” added Malliotakis.