· Mayor says he ‘respects the process’ of grand jury
· NYPD to conduct its own inquiry into death of Eric Garner
Report by Joanna Walters, NY, The Guardian
Picture shows New York Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the podium during a press conference on Thursday to discuss the retraining of police. Photograph UPI/Landov/Barcroft Media
New York mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday refused to endorse a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer over the choking death of a man in the city last summer. De Blasio also doubled down on controversial comments he made about the risks faced by children of colour, such as his son Dante, when they encounter police officers.
Appearing on ABC, de Blasio three times refused to respond to the question of whether he respected the decision by a grand jury not to bring charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who put Staten Island resident Eric Garner in a chokehold during an arrest attempt. The decision led to large-scale protests in the city and across the country, which on Sunday continued into a fifth day. On Saturday night, violence broke out at one such demonstration, in California.
After de Blasio had deflected the question, saying “as an executive in public service” he respected “the judicial process, but …” host George Stephanopoulos interrupted to ask “So you respect the grand jury’s decision?”
De Blasio replied, with emphasis on the last word “I respect the process.” He went on to talk about initiating a “systemic” retraining of police officers in New York, in order to “fix the relationship between the police and the community”.
Stephanopoulos countered “So you respect the process but not the decision?”De Blasio gave the hint of a smile but did not reply.
He said he would “absolutely cooperate” with a federal investigation now underway to establish if the police action against Garner violated his civil rights.
Appearing on different Sunday talkshows, de Blasio and New York police commissioner William Bratton attempted to put up a united front in the face of accusations from the police union last week that the mayor “threw the police under the bus” when he hinted at racism in the ranks. Bratton called de Blasio “one of the best I have ever worked with” in his long career in charge of law enforcement in a variety of cities across the US.
The mayor, however, strengthened controversial comments he made earlier this week. De Blasio, who is white, sparked controversy when he said that he and his wife Chirlane McCray, who is black, had long trained their teenage son Dante to “take special care” in any encounter with police officers.
“We have to have an honest conversation in this country about the history of racism and the problem that has caused parents to feel their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police, when in fact the police are there to protect them,” he said.
“What parents have done for decades who have children of colour, especially young men of colour, is train them to be very careful whenever they have an encounter with a police officer. It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality of this country.”
He and McCray had lectured their son “from early on” on how to respond to the police, he said.
“We said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do whatever he tells you to do. Do not move suddenly, do not reach for your cellphone,’ because, you know, sadly, there is a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of colour.”
De Blasio said he was striving for a day when every child could be told equally “not only are the police there to protect you but they are going to assume that the young person is an innocent, law-abiding young person”.
“I have talked to many families of colour,” he said. “They have had to have the same conversation with their sons. It’s a painful conversation. We all want to look up to figures of authority and everyone knows the police protect us. But there is that fear that there could be that one moment of misunderstanding with a young man of colour and that young man may never come back.”
De Blasio’s comments were delivered against a backdrop of continued protests in many cities against recent incidents of police brutality and charges of a lack of accountability for police officers who have killed civilians.
De Blasio said a “rift” between law enforcement and the public was a fundamental problem that had to be overcome.
California protest turns violent.
Commissioner Bratton said he disagreed with the head of his officers’ union describing de Blasio’s first comments on this subject as “throwing them under the bus”. Speaking on CBS, Bratton said the NYPD would now conduct its own internal inquiry to establish whether the officers involved in the arrest which led to the death of Eric Garner had violated department policies and procedures.
That inquiry was likely to take three to four months and would probably return a decision before the federal government concludes its civil rights investigation, Bratton said.
Asked what he thought of the dying words of Garner, who was heard on a video taken by a bystanders saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times, Bratton said “I don’t think that anyone who watches that video is undisturbed.”
But he then appeared to depart from de Blasio’s apparent skepticism to hint at an element of concession for the officers involved.
“It always looks awful,” he said. “We have an expression ‘lawful but awful’. We are going to have to see if the actions were a violation of our policies and procedures.”
Both Bratton and de Blasio spoke of extensive retraining and re-equipment plans for the NYPD, including a pilot programme to test the wearing of body cameras.
“There is probably not a department in America doing more on these issues,” said Bratton.
Meanwhile an opinion poll issued by Bloomberg Politics concluded that more than half of Americans think race relations have deteriorated under the administration of Barack Obama, the first African American president.
Source - http//www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/07/bill-de-blasio-refuses-endorse-eric-garner-grand-jury-decision