Peter King Is Wrong About The Garner Case

Congressman [mc_name name=’Rep. Peter King (R-NY)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000210′ ], who represents a district in the same state where Eric Garner was killed, is offering pathetic excuses for Garner’s death.

From CNN:

“The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition,” King said. “You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible. If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died.”

The New York congressman also suggested that the officers had no reason to stop suppressing Garner, even though he stressed multiple times that he could not breathe.

“People were saying that he said seven times, ‘I can’t breathe.’ But if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk,” King said. “So police hear that all the time.”

King also defended the officer’s decision to use the chokehold as an arrest procedure.

“In this case, a chokehold was not illegal,” King said. “It is against department regulations, but as you look carefully, I don’t think it was an intent to put him in a chokehold, because [the officer] does move the baton as he brings him down.”

To preface analysis of his comments, it should be noted that King is perhaps the foremost cheerleader for the police state in Congress. Between his support for internet and phone surveillance, treating traveling citizens like criminals, and granting military equipment to police departments, it is clear that King thinks the authorities are rulers, not servants.

I imagine that if the roles were reversed and a law breaking, overweight police officer (80% are) was being subdued by a citizen using a chokehold, King’s opinion would be quite different.

Now, let us look at the Garner case. Because cigarettes are prohibitively taxed in New York, Garner was selling cigarettes tax-free in the street. That’s something I see as a victimless crime and really don’t have a problem with, because I don’t think the proper role of government is to regulate social preferences. What Garner was doing isn’t totally irrelevant, because it illustrates the poor judgement used by the officers who apprehended him. Garner was not being violent or threatening.

He was resisting arrest, but not strongly so. Protesting would be a far more appropriate word. And I would challenge the notion that resisting arrest should be met with brute force, as if disrespecting police authority is a grave offense or personal insult. Instead of body slamming people into concrete, calmer, more peaceful methods of apprehension should be used, as long as the prospective abductee is not being violent.

But even if one were to assume police ought to slam people into the ground, there is no reason to maintain a chokehold on someone after they are on the ground.

As for King’s specific claims, they just don’t hold water. Garner didn’t die while arguing or on the way to the ground, he died well after he was put on the ground and subdued. It may very well be the case that asthma, obesity, and a heart condition helped Garner die sooner. But police should, as any decent human would, assume that whoever they are subduing may not be in top flight shape. There is no need to push the boundaries of life when subduing someone. Just get the handcuffs on and then proceed.

When you have an arm around your neck and bodies on top of you, health problems are not to blame.

As for the idiotic comment that Garner could breath, I suppose King noticed no difference between the boisterous voice of the standing Garner and the weak voice of the choked Garner. Yes, technically he could breathe. But his breathing was being severely restrained. Garner didn’t say “I can’t breathe” to prove a technicality, but to plead for his life. A chokehold was applied, whether it was in perfect form or not, because Garner was being choked.

It’s astounding that one can defend the Eric Garner killing by excusing brutality because of health problems, and then claiming the tactics weren’t brutal based on technicalities. For this reason as well as others, King needs to lose in 2016. I don’t really care how.

As for the police, they need to emulate Andy Griffith or Bill Gillespie, not try to be RoboCop. Aggressive and reckless behavior is reaching critical mass and the tide needs to turn. Remember, we are their boss, not the other way around!