Call the Coastguard

Lisa: [I]f you’re the police, who will police the police?

Homer: I dunno. Coast Guard?

Mere days after a grand jury ruled not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown another grand jury, this time a New York grand jury, declined to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo over the death of Eric Garner, the reason for Garner being thrown to the ground? He was selling loose cigarettes and therefore skipping tax on them.

In the immediate aftermath of the Brown shooting many claimed that if the police wore body cameras it would and could save lives. In a town in california the police department introduced body cameras in the first year the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%. So you would think that if officers used cameras incidents like Brown would stop, or at least be so clear cut that an indictment would be pretty easy to secure?

Well, a pretty powerful rebuttal of that claim happened yesterday, because the death of Eric Garner was caught on film, and yet no indictment, though, not exactly.

Ramsey Orta was the man who videod the entire incident, he’s now awaiting trial having been indicted by a grand jury for possession of a firearm it’s alleged that Orta entered a motel known for drug activity and when confronted by the police he put an object into the waistband of a 17 year old girl. That object was a gun, that didn’t have Orta’s fingerprints on it. Not only that but DNA testing on the firearm hasn’t even been done and according to Orta the police officers referred to the video numerous times and claimed “Karma is a bitch.” Now I’m not going to comment further but that should highlight the flawed grand jury system.

Had Officers Wilson and Pantaleo been indicted it would result in a trail, in that case justice could be seen to be done, it wouldn’t rely on secret hearings that are generally sealed from public scrutiny. Part of the Anger over Ferguson and New York is because Justice isn’t seen to be done. It gives the impression that the police are a law unto themselves. Especially when the Medical examiner determined it was homicide, and the method of restraint was outlawed by the NYPD 20 years previously.

But this all hides another problem, grand juries are flawed, it involves a DA trying to secure an indictment of a local police officer, there is undoubtedly a conflict of interest. That’s why the statistics are so skewered between successful indictments between federal prosecutors and local prosecutors. For example In Texas, Harris County grand juries have cleared Houston PD officers in shootings 288 consecutive times. In Dallas, only one police officer was indicted from 2008 to 2012, after grand juries reviewed 81 shootings involving 175 officers.The last Chicago PD officer indicted was in 2007 and in Houston more than a quarter of the 121 civilians Houston Police Department officers have shot in the last five years were unarmed.

The police are given equipment to end human life, and they do so knowing that the odds are stacked in their favour and they can do so with almost complete impunity. Between the Brown shooting and yesterdays announcement a 12 year old, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a police officer. The police officer had previously served in another force and resigned because he was mentally unfit for duty his instructors noted he fell to pieces on the firing range was incapable of coherent thoughts and his performance was substandard. Yet he was allowed to rejoin another force, drive to reports of a child with a gun, get out his car and open fire immediately. There was no warnings to Tamir, he was just snuffed out, the work of a jittery cop who shouldn’t have been there.

The Grand Jury will soon meet to determine if charges are to be pressed, again this is all caught on video, it’s therefore no surprise that expectations are already set that he will walk free.


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