Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD Police Officer accused of using a department-prohibited chokehold that was partially to blame for the death of Eric Garner more than five years ago, was fired by Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill Aug. 19.
In agreeing with Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado’s findings that Mr. Pantaleo's use of the maneuver “was reckless” and “constituted a gross deviation” from what’s expected of an officer, Mr. O’Neill said “it is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”
Mr. O’Neill said he took “no pleasure” in firing the officer, but also expressed hope that his decision could bring some measure of closure to an episode that resonated far beyond the Tompkinsville neighborhood where Mr. Garner died.
“There are absolutely no victors here today—not the Garner family, not the community at-large, and certainly not the courageous men and women of the police department,” he said to a packed pressroom at Police Headquarters. “Today is a day of reckoning but can also be a day of reconciliation.”
The Commissioner made the fraught but widely anticipated decision 17 days after Judge Maldonado’s recommendation that the officer be terminated.
In her 46-page decision, acquired by the New York Times and linked to on the paper’s webpage, Judge Maldonado, who presided over the officer’s administrative trial this spring, said she found Officer Pantaleo’s earlier denial that he had employed a chokehold “to be both implausible and self-serving.”
Mr. Pantaleo, who did not testify at his trial, made that denial during an interview with the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau in December 2014.
In the portion of the interview quoted by Ms. Maldonado, Mr. Pantaleo said there was “no pressure on the neck...It was pretty much me just laying on him.”
Damningly, she found his recounting of the incident “untruthful” and “disingenuous.”
PBA Lights Up O'Neill
The Police Benevolent Association’s president, Patrick J. Lynch, chastised the Commissioner’s decision. Mr. O’Neill, he said, caved to political pressure.
“He has chosen to cringe in fear of the anti-police extremists, rather than standing up for New Yorkers who want a functioning police department, with cops who are empowered to protect them and their families,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement.
He said firing the officer would “freeze” the department.
“We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job,” Mr. Lynch said.
Mr. Pantaleo, who had been on desk duty since the incident but was suspended following Ms. Maldonado’s recommendation, will not receive his department pension but will be reimbursed for whatever contributions he made to the system.
The officer’s attorney, Stuart London, indicated earlier this month that he would appeal the decision should the officer be fired.
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