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How will NYPD handle minor offenses after Eric Garner’s case? – Part 3

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     For the view from New York City Hall, we’re joined now by Zachary Carter, the city’s legal officer and an adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio.


    Explain. Was City Hall bracing for this outcome, Mr. Carter?

  • ZACHARY CARTER, Corporation Counsel, City of New York:

     I mean, because it was anticipated that the grand jury would be taking action in this case, obviously, we were prepared that, depending on what the outcome of the grand jury’s investigation and process, that there might be a response. And, so, we certainly prepared ourselves for a response.


     Part of the response that the mayor announced today was retraining the entire police force. How does one go about doing that? It’s a pretty big police force.


     Well, first of all, I think that there was acceptance immediately after the Garner incident that retraining was necessary.

    The police commissioner, Bill Bratton, stated immediately after the incident that he believed that, based on his review of the video, that an illegal chokehold prohibited by the police department’s policy apparently had been used.

    There was a determination to embark on making sure that the policy prohibition was reinforced through directives and training. And that has been done, that — but the commissioner has gone further and is embarking on a very ambitious retraining program that reaches every single officer in the department to focus on the use of force, the avoidance of unnecessary use of force, and constructive ways of engaging with the community.


     As you know…

    Pardon me.

    But, as you know, Commissioner Bratton has come under fire himself for his — what is called the broken windows policing policy, where you bring police — not force necessarily, but police action to bear on the most minor offenses.

    Representative Yvette Clarke here in Washington yesterday called it just a cousin to stop and frisk.


     Well, actually, I don’t think that that is true.

    First of all, with respect to stop and frisk itself, the mayor and police Commissioner Bratton made it very, very clear and by their action ended the abuse and overuse of stop and frisk as an enforcement tactic, and the statistics bear that out.

    But with respect to the broken windows theory, the issue isn’t whether or not the broken windows theory is — makes sense in policing in urban settings, because all the broken windows theory simply says is that there should be attention to lower-level offenses, so there is a sense of order, even in our most impoverished communities that are over-represented by people of color.

    But how you address those minor offenses is critical. And in the wake of the Eric Garner incident, there was a close reexamination of whether or not the use of the arrest power was a necessary part of addressing minor offenses. And the mayor and the police commissioner concluded after this review that there were broad categories of minor offenses in which arrests were not necessary, and that alternative means of securing the attendance of persons before the court, like summonses, were available and were the wiser course of action in order to avoid unnecessary confrontations.


     I’m sorry to interrupt.




     Let me ask you bluntly, I suppose. The police union said today that this decision by the grand jury was a just one. Do you agree with that and does the mayor agree with that?


     Well, I think that, without having an opportunity to review all of the evidence that was presented to the grand jury, I don’t think it would be responsible to judge whether or not those grand jurors reached a reasonable decision.

    Obviously, on the basis of what was public record — and, obviously, that most prominently was the videotape — it is — it would be puzzling for, I’m sure, most residents of the city and even those like me, who grew up in law enforcement, as to how they could necessarily come to the conclusion that they came to.

    But, again, there’s — there may have been much presented before the grand jury of which we are not aware. It’s — what I think though is important in our system and in any system of justice is, there has to be both a reality and the perception of justice.




     And, obviously, those perceptions, to a large extent, were formed by a videotape that appeared to provide a fairly full account of what occurred.


     Thank you, Zachary Carter, chief legal officer for the city of New York.

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