Retired NYC cop understands officer mindset in confrontations
Posted December 3, 2014
Updated December 4, 2014
Cary, N.C. — During his 20-year career as a New York City police officer, Bob Young was involved in all types of situations, including bank robberies, interstate kidnappings and street patrol.
So when NYC officer Daniel Pantaleo used an apparent chokehold to subdue Eric Garner, Young understands what an officer goes through in such situations.
“In the heat of combat, when you're fighting with somebody, you're not thinking about what you're doing sometimes,” said Young, who lives in Cary. “It's the process of getting somebody under control so they don't hurt you.”
Pantaleo encountered Garner, 43, on a Staten Island, N.Y. street in July for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner, in video shot by an onlooker, told police to leave him alone as they attempted to arrest him. Pantaleo responded by putting Garner in an apparent chokehold, which the New York City Police Department said is banned under their use of force policy.
The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, "I can't breathe,” according to news reports. He later died.
The last thing a police officer wants to do is take a life, Young said.
“My objective was to make sure the citizens of New York were safe, but also to go home to my family at the end of the day, to make sure I was safe to take care of them,” he said.
Pantaleo echoed similar remarks in a statement.
"I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can't protect themselves," he said, according to news reports. "It is never my intention to harm anyone, and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner."
A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and determined that the chokehold was a contributing factor. But a grand jury on Wednesday found “no reasonable cause” to indict Pantaleo, resulting in multiple demonstrations across the city.
"I couldn't see how a grand jury could vote and say there was no probable cause," said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, according to news reports. "What were they looking at? Were they looking at the same video the rest of the world was looking at?"
Federal officials said they would conduct an investigation into the incident.
Wednesday’s decision echoed a similar conclusion in Ferguson, Mo., where a grand jury also decided not to indict a white police officer in the death of a black subject. The decision led to violent protests in the St. Louis suburb, demonstrations across the country and questions regarding the relationship between law enforcement and African-American communities.
Young said both incidents should force police departments to refocus their efforts on community policing.
“The problem is sometimes, people don't understand how to intermingle together, right, and that's going to be a problem no matter what you do,” he said. “Sometimes you don't get the right fit. Sometimes they shouldn't be in law enforcement.They shouldn't have that job.”