Bratton’s ‘troubling’ statement

Supporters of Eric Garner attend a prayer vigil in Staten Island.
Photo by Lem Peterkin

Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams says while he applauds Police Commissioner William Bratton’s plans to retrain all police officers on the use of force in light of the ongoing investigation in the Eric Garner case, he is concerned about Bratton’s remarks on the issue of race.

“The commissioner’s statement that he did not believe Eric Garner’s race had anything to do with the situation caused concern,” said Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, and is deputy leader and chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee.

“To claim that NYPD (New York Police Department) has practices that don’t adversely affect black and brown communities is the root of this problem,” he added. “Our city has historically struggled with racial tensions between the police department and people of color.

“The NYPD needs to focus on a cultural systemic shift within the department to really address this issue,” Williams continued. “This is a pivotal movement to work together to create better police practices in communities of more color the Commissioner specifically highlighted.

“Only then will people in these communities be able to walk the streets of New York without worrying if they will be the next victim of bias-based police brutality,” he said.

Bratton had called for all 35,000 police personnel to be retrained on “use-of-force” practices after Garner 43, died while being held in a chokehold during his arrest for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes in Staten Island.

Bratton then said Garner’s case had nothing to do with his skin color, adding that the NYPD is culturally sensitive toward all races.

Williams had described Bratton’s immediate response to Garner’s death as “a definite step in the right direction,” stating that “the past administration may have stayed silent on this issue until the investigation was complete.”

But he said the more Garner’s story continues to unfold, “the more troubling it is.”

“I am further dismayed by recent revelations that NYPD officers omitted information from initial reports about the chokehold, and stated that he was not in great distress,” Williams said.

“Thank goodness someone was there to film the incident to make sure the truth surfaced,” he added. “Have other cases like this slipped through the cracks because a bystander didn’t intervene?”

“The NYPD must hold their officers accountable for this criminal behavior,” he affirmed.

Williams said he was “additionally troubled that new videos surfaced showing just how inhumane those officers treated Garner while he was struggling for air.

“In the video, Garner was left like a piece of meat on the sidewalk,” he said. “As I’ve said before, if he was a dog, he probably would have received medical assistance sooner.”

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