The Death of Eric Garner – “I Can’t Speak”

Ramsey Orta video (Screenshot)
Ramsey Orta video (Screenshot)

Another tragic death of an African-American man and the usual suspects weigh in to distort the truth.

Politicians, CNN reporters / contributors and mainstream media doing their utmost to write another false narrative to inflame and divide.

Eric Garner (43) died on July 17, 2014 after police attempted to arrest him for participating in the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes.

It seems police were responding to local business complaints that Garner’s illegal sales were negatively impacting their business.  In fact, some reports indicate he was a player in an organized crime cigarette smuggling syndicate.

Police investigated and subsequently tried to take him into custody.

Only this time, Garner decided he wasn’t going to play ball, “I’m tired of it, this stops today,” he said before things went horribly wrong.

When it comes to use of force principles, Garner could be best described as offering passive or defensive resistance.  He was verbally non-compliant and pulled his hands away as officers tried to place him under arrest.

It’s important to note he was a gigantic man measuring 6’3″ tall and weighing between 350 – 400 pounds.

Four police officers proceeded to go hands on with him in their attempt to take him into custody.

Ironically, the officers employed one of the lowest levels of force options available to apprehend a suspect. In Winnipeg, the level of force is called, “soft empty hand control.”

That means the officers opted for a low level of force option and precluded the use of intermediate weapons like the taser, pepper spray or police baton.

One of the officers, identified as Daniel Pantaleo, placed Garner in a “choke hold” and took him to the ground.

The entire episode was captured on video by a witness using a smart phone.

Garner tragically died as a result of the confrontation.

The medical examiner reported he died as a result of compression to his neck and chest from being placed in the prone position while being physically restrained by police.

The ME indicated asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors.

The manner of death identified by the ME was homicide.

The case went before a Grand Jury who reviewed the evidence and declined to recommend an indictment.

The news sparked outrage and protest.

The False Narrative

As I watched the coverage I was once again struck by the inflammatory, inaccurate, racially divisive commentary coming out of main stream media.

Congressman Lacy Clay
William Lacy Clay Jr

Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay typified the rhetoric in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN.

“We’ll that’s the thing that really dismays me is that you do have video and audio evidence, and this Grand Jury couldn’t bring themselves, uh, to bring any charges at all on a group of police officers that from the evidence suggests they pretty much jumped on this guy and beat him to death.”

Clay went on to suggest the failure to indict the officer demonstrates, “Some Americans still don’t believe that black lives are worth the same as other Americans lives.”

Clay’s suggestion Garner was beaten to death shocked me and flew directly in the face of video evidence that clearly shows he was taken to the ground with minimal force.

Not a punch, kick, knee, elbow or any other kind of strike was thrown during the entire episode.

To think that an elected Government official would make such an outlandish claim, though troubling, is typical of the kind of mischaracterization we saw in the Michael Brown case.

The #handsupdontshoot scenario was essentially disproved by witness and forensic evidence.

CNN contributor Dr. Sanjay Gupta added to the false narrative by underlining the significance of the Medical Examiners finding of homicide regarding Garner’s manner of death.  It was as if he was suggesting the officer was guilty of murder because the ME called the death a homicide.

In reality, the finding of homicide means little.

The classification of homicide does not automatically imply criminal culpability.

Medical Examiners have limited options when they classify death.  Those classifications must fall into categories of accidental, suicide, natural, undetermined or homicide.

If a suspect shoots at a police officer and is killed with return fire the ME would still classify the suspect’s death as a homicide.

The difference is the death would be considered a “justifiable” homicide as is true of most deadly force encounters with police.

The Choke Hold

Media accounts have focused much attention on the “chokehold” used by Officer Pantaleo.

Some CNN contributors have created another false narrative by referring to the chokehold as an “illegal chokehold,” while in truth, no such criminal designation exists for the technique commonly used in mixed martial arts fighting.

Ramsey Orta Video (Screen shot)
Ramsey Orta Video (Screen shot)

I question how much emphasis we should place on the “chokehold” regarding Mr. Garner’s death.

When you watch the video you’ll see the “chokehold” is applied in the standing position and is released once Garner is taken to the ground.  In all, the “chokehold” was applied for approximately thirteen (13) seconds.

Once the “chokehold” is released you can clearly hear Mr. Garner stress he can’t breathe.  It stands to reason he couldn’t talk if he was being choked to death.

When I watch the video it’s obvious Mr. Garner died from a heart attack as a result of suffering from positional asphyxia which may have been exacerbated by factors such as obesity, asthma or strenuous resistance.

A Winnipeg Case

On February 21, 2004, James Hanson (28) was killed by three bouncers at the Beach Nightclub on Pembina Highway after they took him to the ground and restrained him after a number of fights broke out in the parking lot.

Hanson was obese and had, “early and abnormal heart disease.”  His obesity, level of intoxication and evidence of pressure to his neck were identified as aggravating factors in his death.

He essentially died from a heart attack as a result of suffering from positional asphyxiation.

His manner of death was homicide.

Three bouncers were subsequently charged with manslaughter only to be acquitted at trial by a Judge who seemed to agree with the Pathologists analysis of the case.

In his decision, Justice J Oliphant wrote;

“Of real importance in the context of this case, Dr. MacDonald opined that Mr. Hanson’s death was more of a tragedy than anything else. Moreover, according to Dr. MacDonald, it is not clear that the people involved should have known they were doing any harm to Mr. Hanson. Dr. MacDonald adopted the defense suggestion that Mr. Hanson’s death was, “almost accidental.”

Is it reasonable to expect the officers involved in Mr. Garner’s death could have anticipated he would die during the arrest?

Is there any basis for a rational belief the officer’s intended to cause Mr. Garner’s death?

Much like the Hanson case, it seems the Garner case may be more consistent with an accidental or unintended death.

Degrees of Separation

The people screaming for police accountability simply refuse to connect all the dots in the tragic death of Eric Garner.  It’s a chicken or egg kind of conversation that no one seems to want to have.

They want to start the conversation at the “chokehold” and not take it back to the unlawful sale of cigarettes or the resistance to arrest.

In the Michael Brown case, they want to start the conversation with the fatal shot and not take it back to the convenience store robbery or the felony assault on Officer Wilson.

That’s not victim-blaming, that’s called seeing things the way they are.

It’s called the inconvenient truth.

The Final Analysis

No one should die as a result of selling untaxed cigarettes or stealing a handful of cigarillos.

Police have a responsibility to take a hard look at their policies and procedures when it comes to use of force and must always evolve and improve to meet the needs of a continually changing society.

What can we learn?

Police need to consider more extensive training in the areas of verbal judo and de-escalation when it comes to all use of force encounters.

Police must intensify public education regarding use of force and the perils of non-compliance.

The public must respect the role Law Enforcement plays in the community and need to recognize the ramifications of lawlessness and non-compliance.

Accountability shouldn’t be a selective principle we solely apply to the men and women of Law Enforcement.

That’s black and white to me.




  1. James G Jewell


    Thanks for weighing in…

  2. James G Jewell


  3. It appears Mitsh watches too many movies.

    What’s next? Suggesting tranquilizer darts or maybe police should only be doing the “Care Bear stare”

  4. Mitsh,
    From your long-winded sermons, it appears that you have all the answers. When people like you attempt to define what a “perilous” situation is, it only makes you look like a simpleton with no experience about what you’re speaking of. It’s clear you don’t have any friends or family donning a uniform. You’re using all the most recent examples of the CNN spin machine to tout your case for de-escalation. That only works in some scenarios, not all like you believe. There are certain people who can’t be reasoned with, can’t be calmed, or refuse to listen to reason. Then you repeat “unarmed” as if it’s synonymous with not dangerous. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an angry 300 lb. man with no regard for his own safety, let alone yours? Have you seen the carnage an experienced MMA fighter can do with his bare hands, or a deranged PCP addict who doesn’t feel pain? I will assume no to all the above.
    Then you suggest police rush into dangerous situations only to find out they’re in peril!? Every time a police officer is on the clock (and even when they’re not) they are in peril. All men and women in uniform are targets, it’s just reality. It’s what they signed on for, to meet dangerous and lethal situations head-on, every day. Your suggestion that Wilson should have rolled up his window and drove away is describing what you and the rest of the sheep would do, not what sheepdogs do.
    I’d like to go on and on and point out how ridiculous your suggestions are, but you clearly have your mind made up that you can do the job better, so I encourage you to apply to your local Police department. Good luck!

  5. Mr Jewell,
    You seemed to be failing to understand why the public was creating backlash against LE for the killing of unarmed civilians.
    As a civilian I was trying to enlighten you as to the reasons why.

    Once again, the public is unwilling to allow LE to use lethal force when other options are available to de-escalate. When they do, it will create a backlash. It’s not that difficult to understand.
    The curtailing of high speed pursuits is exactly like these situations where LE has finally stopped pursuing at the risk of civilian life, just to effect an immediate arrest.
    I never said Officer Wilson shouldn’t arrest Michael Brown, I offered suggestions he COULD have used to step back, diffuse the situation and STILL effect the arrest and then hold Mr. Brown accountable for his accused crimes.
    Mr. Brown is dead, Officer Wilson has been exonerated, and the spin goes on. Something has to change.

    You seem married to your narrative, LE is allowed to use deadly force. They follow the use of force circle, They will use deadly force whether the civilian is armed or not, and no matter if they are actually placing the LE in peril of their life.
    As long as the LE claims to be afraid, they are allowed to kill the civilian. We’ve all heard the LE spin.

    You agreed that the trust level between the public and LE is broken. How is the current construct working for LE?

    I was trying to offer some level of constructive dialogue on some measures to hold LE accountable when they fail to employ de-escalation. This would diffuse the backlash.
    As I said, the civilian is unarmed then the hill is higher to climb. The sheer number if civilians being killed shows that de-escalation is not being used as an option.
    LE are rushing into situations and then deciding they are in peril. They are then blaming the civilian for the peril they are in, and the results are a dead civilian.
    An obvious example is the 5 yr old in Montreal killed by an LE when the LE was doing 120Km/h in a 50 k/hr zone. The LE spin even went so far as to blame the father for turning left on a green light as opposed to waiting for a dedicated left turn green arrow. The LE officer involved is not being charged, because he’s “allowed” to exceed the speed limit in the course of his duties. He was in an unmarked unlit car following a former Quebec politician involved in the corruption scandal. I’m sure the public will love to hear you chime in that it’s legal for the LE to exceed the speed limit and therefore he isn’t responsible. A child is dead, no one is being held responsible.

    You response is “ De-escalation is not an option.”. As I said, you are married to your narrative, and. I would assume that the backlash will continue.

    I purposely left the definition of “accountable” open for you to define.
    You’ve continually used the existing construct as above to justify every event of LE killing unarmed civilians.
    But I still haven’t heard of any visible “accountability” against any LE for killing unarmed civilians.
    You even agreed that the NY officers were “responsible” for Mr. Garners death, but you haven’t detailed how they have been held responsible in any real way.

    In fact the resolution you seem to favor is the status quo, no criminal charges, actions being justified by LE brotherhood and claim all their actions are “perfect” and no repercussions at all.
    Officer Wilson has publicly stated he’d do the same thing again, and has never stated he is sorry for killing Michael Brown. That doesn’t sound like suffering the “affects of PTSD, death by suicide, or public humiliation.”
    As for “internal charges” as I’ve said PSA charges are HR remedies. I would hope you’d agree that they are very low on the scale of “responsibility”, especially after a death is involved.
    The only real repercussions you do offer are an internal moral conflict with the LE after the fact. Officer Wilson as well as Officer Forcillo doesn’t seem to be suffering from any of those.
    What is your suggestion when this final frontier of “responsibility” is not being felt?

    Perhaps a solution would be to create a policy that any LE who employs lethal force will result in no longer being an LE.
    If a justified killing brings on all these mental health issues, perhaps they shouldn’t be armed when encountering the public any longer?
    At least the public would know that that LE is not going to be using lethal force any longer.

    I doubt even that suggestion will be taken seriously, so I’ll leave you to your own solution to “fix the problem”.
    I’ve only heard one suggestion from you so far. I don’t think spinning the media is going to work.
    At least I’m trying to offer something.

    LE is going to have to look at the other end of the finger.

    You do not seem open to any solutions other than your narrative, and spinning the media,
    I’ll allow you to keep justifying every death by LE against unarmed civilians, but please don’t try to claim a lack of understanding about the public protest against LE,
    I’ve explained it pretty well, you’re just ignoring what I’m saying.

    Good Luck.

  6. James G Jewell

    I’m going to limit my reply to the issue of de-escalation which I touched on in my original response;

    “You should know that de-escalation and lower level use of force options aren’t always appropriate. For example, if a three hundred pound man was charging you after he tried to disarm you and you only had seconds to react I would suggest deadly force is the only realistic option available.”

    Once again, I appreciate your interest in engaging in a conversation and make no assumption you are anti law enforcement.

    Like many people, it seems you have a very simplistic understanding regarding the dynamics of a deadly force encounter and a police officer’s ability to control the event using lower levels of force or de-escalation techniques.

    Please remember, I’m not a CNN legal analyst or talking head, I’m someone who has been in many deadly force encounters.

    The fact is, the level of force used by police officers is most often dictated by the level of force used against them. Use of force principals and the law authorizes police officers to use a level of force higher than is presented to them.

    When it comes to a dynamic incident police officers are often forced to make split second life and death decisions. These decisions are influenced by many human factors that include stress, adrenaline, experience, fear and many other influences.

    I’ll say it again, de-escalation is not always an option or even appropriate when faced with a deadly threat. Police officers inability to act decisively can result in the tragic death of civilians, their fellow officers or themselves. There are countless incidents out there where you can find real life examples of these tragedies. The situations are dynamic, unpredictable and often deadly.

    You want to indict officer Wilson because he didn’t de-escalate the incident with Michael Brown yet you seem to completely disregard the fact Brown attacked and assaulted the officer at his police vehicle.

    Could Wilson have reasonably expected Brown to punch him in the face and try to disarm him when he rolled up on him?

    I don’t think so.

    Once Brown committed a felonious assault on the officer it was his duty to arrest him and take him into custody.

    Like I said, you can play Monday morning QB all you want but at the end of the day, Michael Brown’s aggression precipitated the use of deadly force.

    In my experience most people comply when an armed police officer challenges them at gun point and orders them to the ground. I expect Wilson would have thought Brown would have complied with that direction, but he didn’t.

    Once he charged at Wilson there was little option but deadly force.

    Your not the only one to suggest Wilson should have driven away or called for back up to avoid the deadly confrontation that ensued.

    Its nice to have that crystal ball.

    It’s easy to suggest a different course of action when you have the benefit of knowing the outcome. Problems is, real life doesn’t work like that.

    We expect the police to enforce the laws and act decisively during the execution of their duties. We expect citizens to obey the laws and comply with law enforcement when they run afoul of the law.

    As far as that conversation goes with my son, he has not been taught to fear law enforcement, he’s been taught to respect the law and law enforcement officers. If he does so, I don’t believe he has anything to fear.

    What you fail to consider is the high jeopardy work police officers do every day in this Country and south of our border.

    Police have to make decisions every day regarding the use of force and the necessity to arrest people.

    When police are obligated to make an arrest the arrestee does not have the right or expectation he or she can choose the place or timing of that arrest. If the person decides to offer resistance the police will act based on the law and their training. De-escalation is not an option.

    That resistance can have tragic consequences as we saw in the Brown and Garner cases.

    Police failure to act can have deadly consequences…

    I can site real world examples where police didn’t act and innocent civilians got killed.

    Lastly, you challenge me to find five cases where police officers were held “accountable” for not de-escalating a situation that resulted in the death of a civilian.

    My answer largely depends on your definition of the term “accountable.”

    If accountable means charged criminally, loss of employment, suffering the affects of PTSD, death by suicide, public humiliation, internal charges or some other form of consequence then I will have no problem citing several examples for you.

    I can assure you, the consequences of a deadly force encounter, even when justified, have heavy impacts on police officers.

    Thank you for commenting.

  7. Mr Jewell, you are still failing to hear the message through the noise.
    I want to preface my comments again to stress that I am not anti LE, I agree LE needs to use lethal force on occasion and as I said, I believe the public usually supports when LE is faced with no other option but to use lethal force to save their lives or the lives of others.

    That said, the point in the above sentence that seems to escape LE when analyzing lethal force incidents is the “no other option” portion of that statement.
    That’s where my question which was totally ignored comes from “What has that LE officer done to de-escalate this situation before he employed lethal force?”
    That question should be the initial starting point for every investigation into the death of a civilian at the hands of the police.
    As soon as that question is satisfactorily answered the public is generally mute on lethal force events. Obviously this answer is much more difficult to answer when the incident becomes one of an armed LE engaging an unarmed civilian. I’m not saying that an armed LE will never be into a situation where he can reasonably fear for his life, but they should be the VAST minority. It’s a lopsided engagement, so it should be a VERY high hill to climb to explain why lethal force was the LAST option available.

    I only discussed the actual situations to highlight that in none of these cases has this question of de-escalation been satisfactorily answered.
    The overall situations are similar, armed LE interacted with unarmed civilians. The civilian died as a result. There are loads of explanations from the “pro LE establishment” into each piece by piece step of how the LE was “justified” in his use of force and how he had a “right” to escalate the situation as he had. This is all smoke to confuse the issues. These laws which allow LE officers to use deadly force are vague on purpose so that LE is given the benefit of the doubt in their interactions with the public. When they are involved in a situation requiring lethal force there is no question that they are allowed by law to use lethal force – the unwritten part at the end of that law (because it is subjective and cannot be objectified) is as a last resort. The public expects LE to do EVERYTHING in their power to modify every situation possible to de-escalate the situation before lethal force is used. I hope we all agree that nobody should feel it is acceptable to have other options available rather than killing a civilian, but to choose to kill anyway?
    To then use that vagueness to explain a situation where a LE officer escalated a situation, placed himself into a dangerous situation or any other reason where he finds himself “fearing for his life” when he could have done a number of things prior to that to de-escalate the event is disingenuous.

    This is why you aren’t hearing the message from the public. I’ll spell it out again because I obviously used more words than required last night.
    The public supports LE using deadly force when all other de-escalation options have been expended and the LE officer did not escalate the situation themselves to “create” the perception (real or false) of danger.

    Since you relate to statistics, I’ve cut and pasted a few from your response, and researched a few to flesh yours out.

    “Since the year 2000, fifty-seven police officers were killed by unarmed assailants. Officer David Smith was killed in March of this year by a suspect who disarmed him before he was even able to get out of his cruiser car.”
    So that works out to be 4.7 armed LE killed by unarmed civilians per year. To further that discussion, I’ve found:

    45 million Americans had some type of contact with law enforcement during the preceding year

    In 2011, according to data I collected, police officers in the United States shot 1,146 people, killing 607.

    I’m not even going to quibble how many of the 1147 people shot or 607 killed were armed because just in the last while there have been at least 4 that have garnered media attention (Brown, Garner, Rice, White).
    I’d be willing to bet that if there have been 4 in just a few months, that this isn’t an anomaly and they will not be the only occurrences for the entire year?

    “Your perception that Officer Wilson shouldn’t have feared for his life when Brown reached in his vehicle in his attempt to disarm him proves my point.”
    No, it doesn’t. You failed to answer my question. Did Officer Wilson do everything possible BEFORE he decided to use lethal force? Could he have done ANYTHING to de-escalate the situation?
    “Don’t forget, Browns blood was found in the interior of the vehicle and on Wilson’s firearm.”
    Yes, it was, and I never said Mr. Brown shouldn’t have paid for his crimes. He should have been taken to a court of law and been found guilty for all crimes he committed. This is not going to happen because he paid the ultimate price for his crimes. If we are going to allow LE to dispense justice by deciding to use lethal force by putting himself into a situation that he then decides is “dangerous” to justify using lethal force, why have a court system? I think the lawman gunning down the perpetrator at high noon is in the past. He escalated the situation – and then used that escalation to justify using lethal force. That’s my problem with that situation.

    I ask again, did Officer Wilson use EVERY available option to de-escalate that situation before he decided to pull his gun inside that Tahoe? Remember when you answer that question that his pistol was on his right hip, away from the window. His vehicle was serviceable and there was nothing blocking his forward or backward path. If you answer no to that question, Mr. Brown has paid for his crimes with his life. What consequences will Officer Wilson pay for his actions? (also realize that the LE brotherhood in St Louis has come out quite forcefully that he’s been cleared by the grand jury and so he acted appropriately. According to them he did NOTHING wrong. All his actions were considered “perfect”. I read your quoted article, and I’m sorry but I don’t think it adds to the discussion. Short of shooting everyone as you exit your cruiser (a la Cleveland) what is the proposed solution? The only suggestion I could offer is to ensure you stop your cruiser a bit of a distance so you can exit your cruiser in safety? Short of killing all civilians at whatever scene you arrive to, it is impossible to diminish the threat to LE to zero. As it is, and I’ve listed the statistics, when it comes to interactions between armed LE and unarmed civilians, it is heavily swayed to the LE officer. Are you wanting it swayed even more? Bring up the kill rate? How about de-escalating by arriving and not rushing in, stop your car 20 or 30 feet away and de-escalate as you enter the scene? I’m not going to try to tell you how to do your job, you should know how to safely enter an excited scene to ensure the safety of all.

    “The problem is the peaceful resolution of the majority of conflicts with the police aren’t newsworthy items. Happy endings don’t get the headlines while race infused deadly force encounters create media feeding frenzies.”
    And I am proud of those many LE officers who use every option available to de-escalate encounters between themselves and civilians. I’m glad the majority if interactions aren’t news worthy, can you imagine if they were?
    I believe the vast majority of civilians quietly recognize the bravery and efforts of the vast majority of LE. The few bad apples are not indicative of the whole bushel. That said, the public is uncomfortable when the LE “brotherhood” closes ranks and justifies and excuses – whenever the answer to de-escalation is an obvious NO. Especially when the public can see the event captured on video and they are being pissed on but told it’s raining. The public aren’t as stupid as some think they are. You’ll also notice I haven’t mentioned race at all. I believe the only racial issue here is one of either belonging or not belonging to the LE race. If you are part of LE, you’re safe, if you’re not, do everything you’re asked, and you MIGHT survive.
    You mentioned you’re a father. Have you had “the chat” with your child? Have you told them to fear the police and to be constantly aware and ready to instantly follow all shouted commands even before they realize who is shouting? It’s a shame that I’ve had to have that discussion with my child. Children shouldn’t have to be afraid of the police.

    “Your analysis of Wilson’s deadly force encounter is equivalent to playing Monday morning quarterback. Wilson had seconds to react while you and the outraged public have the luxury of spending hours, weeks or months questioning his judgement.”
    I agree that split second decisions are the bread and butter for LE. This is a fact of the job. If the issuance of a traffic ticket or a criminal charge is felt to be unfair, then years of litigation will usually commence. When it comes to lethal force, I think that “Monday morning quarterbacking” is justified and acceptable. To expect otherwise is to not want oversight of LE actions against civilians. I’m not even going to elaborate on that because we both know that would bring on an equal anarchy as an absence of LE within society. You aren’t seriously suggesting otherwise, are you? Tamir Rice also had seconds to react. He hasn’t received years of training to perform split second decisions. Those split seconds cost him his life. The Rice case, like the Forcillo case will play out like the Brown case, the Garner case, the Cavanagh case, there will be a lot of talking heads, the case will be parsed second by second, analyzed, explained, justified by the LE brotherhood and in the final analysis, nothing will happen. Speaking of the Cavanagh case, he wasn’t controlling his weapon. He had his safety off. His weapon fired without his intention and killed an innocent civilian. What were the repercussion for that? If I as a civilian had a weapon and I was handling it without it’s safety on and I accidentally shot and killed a visitor to my home, would I get off scot free as well? In your opinion, should LE or civilians be held to a higher standard in regards to following the law?

    “In my experience, witness testimony often evolves as time passes. Their evidence can become more or less detailed but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying.”
    I agree, but the prosecutor used that reasoning for why there was no indictment. If an LE (who is trained to testify) can’t keep his story straight, then an untrained and inexperienced civilian shouldn’t be dismissed because his eyewitness testimony has changed.
    “The bottom line is the Grand Jury heard the evidence and did not indict.”
    You are correct. They did not. And I am glad to hear that EVERY grand jury in St Louis will now be hearing every scrap of evidence (pro and con) and have every witness testify including the defendant as part of the Grand Jury process. This is a new change isn’t it? I’m sure the following trials will be some boring. But, the prosecutor has changed the rules. I certainly hope he isn’t changing the rules just because it’s an LE involved, if that was the case, a reasonable person would wonder why a LE officer receives “different” justice than a regular civilian. Because I’d have to give you a strange look if you made a comment like that and this grand jury was not a “unique” situation. I haven’t heard any official statement that all grand juries will be run this way from now on, but I’m curious how that will backlog the justice system? We both know the old saying that a prosecutor could get an indictment against a ham sandwich if he wanted to. This process was a farce when a pro LE prosecutor swayed the process to get the result he wanted.
    Statements like that are the ones I am referring to about the LE brotherhood closing ranks. Please don’t treat civilians like we’re idiots, it will backfire some day.

    “I agree, the police were responsible for his death but that doesn’t mean they were criminally culpable. A conclusion the Grand Jury arrived at by the way.”
    This is part of the problem. Do I think this officer left his house and thought “I’m going to go kill someone today”? no. That’s ludicrous. But, the fact is he did. So, if we’re going to not hold LE criminally responsible for their actions, what are we going to do about it? How CAN we hold them responsible? Right now, they are not, and the public is demonstrating that this is unacceptable. This is the fundamental break in the trust between LE and the public. (Please don’t quote PSA actions against the LE, we also both know that those are slaps on the wrist comparable to a normal civilian HR sanction. We aren’t talking a sexist comment at the company Christmas party, don’t disrespect me with equating holding someone responsible with killing a civilian with smacking a co-worker on the ass at a party) Other than slanting all investigations and thwarting any prosecutions, how are LE held responsible? Please cite 5 cases where an LE was held accountable for escalating or not de-escalating a situation that resulted in the death of a civilian?

    “I haven’t weighed in on the Rice case as of yet because significant facts remain unknown. The fact the police rolled right up on Rice is a central issue in the case. “Self imposed jeopardy,” is a serious tactical flaw front line and tactical officers must always be aware of.”
    You’re making my point from above, except I take offence to the term “self imposed jeopardy” because it’s not the LE who is imposed the jeopardy, it’s the civilian who pays the jeopardy with his life when the LE escalates the situation. Call it what it is, escalation by an LE who then reacts by killing the civilian. When LE officers make a “serious tactical flaw” and kills a civilian, what are the repercussions? Are they anywhere similar when a civilian makes a “serious error”, let’s say drinking and driving, and kills someone? Did the civilian leave the house choosing to kill someone? No, Their error resulted in the death of another person. Is LE held to the same standard? I’ll look forward to the 5 cases cited above.

    “What you and so many other people seem to forget is that police officers are required to use force as part of their employment. That obligation is recognized in law and the courts have to be reasonable when they assess whether the level of force was justified or not. When making that assessment many factors must be considered including the officers state of mind, the suspects actions and resistance offered, the presences of weapons, the law and use of force principles.”
    I disagree, I believe the public is usually completely mute and any media attention dies quickly when an LE finds himself in a situation where he’s expended every de-escalation option and his life is in jeopardy and uses lethal force. The media attention is amplified by the public and continues through numerous news cycles when there is no explanation of how de-escalation was attempted and how this was the only option available. The media and public aren’t the enemy. Ensure that LE de-escalates before utilizing deadly force and there won’t be the backlash. Blaming the public and media is looking at the wrong end of the pointing finger.

    A final note I’d like to mention. I believe this problem is much more amplified down south. I do believe Canadian LE DO try to use more de-escalation as opposed to jumping to their weapons. My concerns here are that with the opinions, training, and attitudes from down south are filtering up here. The militarized, aggressive actions of Canadian LE demonstrate it’s already moving north. If we don’t deal with this now, very soon we’ll face the same crisis as the US are facing now. I believe the LE brotherhood justifying and explaining every excessive use of force and involved LE walking away without being held responsible has already bled across the border and that’s the first step in the shoot first attitude crossing the border.

    I ask again, to ensure everyone gets my point, because it was ignored in your reply by Mr. Jewell. In every event that occurs, what was done by the individual in control (the one armed) to de-escalate?

  8. James G Jewell


    Thank you for your in-depth comment and response.

    I appreciate the time and effort you took to advance the conversation.

    Let me respond;

    Your suggestion that I see things from only one perspective is an unfair characterization.

    I have many perspectives that include ex-law enforcement, husband, father, citizen, product of a bi-racial marriage and human being.

    Part of what I do is try and offer understanding that includes a perspective based on significant experience in law enforcement.

    When I do use of force analysis people automatically conclude I favour law enforcement and even suggest I justify force in situations where I clearly do not. Forcillo is a perfect example. I never once suggested the shooting was justified, in fact, I underlined areas that might be difficult to justify. That analysis was done long before he was charged in the case.

    What I often suggest is that people shouldn’t rush to judgement without knowing the facts.

    I appreciate much of your analysis and agree with some of the conclusions you draw.

    Most of my recent writing has centered on confronting the false narratives that are being written and fed to the masses by main stream media.

    The facts haven’t got in the way of the latest, greatest social movement targeting law enforcement and use of force.

    You suggest most people would support LE if an officer’s life was truly in danger. The problem with your suggestion is that the public’s perception is almost always influenced by a mass media that simply can’t comprehend the dynamics of a deadly force encounter.

    Simply put, the general public’s perception for the need to use deadly force is often built on things they’ve seen on television, movies or heard in the media.

    The “unarmed black teen” narrative is a classic example.

    That term was regurgitated in mass media from the time Officer Wilson fired the first shots at Michael Brown. Not one station bothered to conduct a little research on how many police officers are killed by unarmed suspects during t-stops and other confrontations.

    Since the year 2000, fifty-seven police officers were killed by unarmed assailants. Officer David Smith was killed in March of this year by a suspect who disarmed him before he was even able to get out of his cruiser car.

    Every police officer working the streets knows the danger unarmed, goal oriented suspects present to them while the public and media have a very limited understanding.

    Your perception that Officer Wilson shouldn’t have feared for his life when Brown reached in his vehicle in his attempt to disarm him proves my point.

    Don’t forget, Browns blood was found in the interior of the vehicle and on Wilson’s firearm.

    You raise a valid point regarding de-escalation.

    As a former SWAT team member and street cop I can tell you that police officers use de-escalation techniques all the time. The problem is the peaceful resolution of the majority of conflicts with the police aren’t newsworthy items. Happy endings don’t get the headlines while race infused deadly force encounters create media feeding frenzies.

    You should know that de-escalation and lower level use of force options aren’t always appropriate. For example, if a three hundred pound man was charging you after he tried to disarm you and you only had seconds to react I would suggest deadly force is the only realistic option available.

    I’ve been in many deadly force encounters and I’ve had suspects thank me for not killing them when I would have been justified. In most cases they were lucky. They made the right move at the right time, put their hands up or immediately got on the ground when I told them to.

    Your analysis of Wilson’s deadly force encounter is equivalent to playing Monday morning quarterback. Wilson had seconds to react while you and the outraged public have the luxury of spending hours, weeks or months questioning his judgement.

    In my experience, witness testimony often evolves as time passes. Their evidence can become more or less detailed but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lying.

    The bottom line is the Grand Jury heard the evidence and did not indict.

    Regarding Mr Garner, the “illegal” choke hold has been tremendously overblown.

    Whether or not Mr Garner broke the law, was selling cigarettes or whether the law should have been enforced is open for debate.

    What shouldn’t be debated is if the officer used deadly force or not. It certainly wasn’t deadly force. The officer felt he had the grounds to arrest and Mr Garner was non-compliant. What arrest techniques would you have employed?

    The truth is very few options exist when a 350 pound man decides to be non-compliant.

    I have no doubt the officers could have used the exact same technique on 1,000 other suspects without causing them any significant harm.

    Mr Garner happened to be obese and had health issues that contributed to his death. His death was tragic and certainly unintended. It certainly wasn’t murder.

    I agree, the police were responsible for his death but that doesn’t mean they were criminally culpable. A conclusion the Grand Jury arrived at by the way.

    Your analogy regarding a handcuffed subject being tossed into a river is way off point.

    I haven’t weighed in on the Rice case as of yet because significant facts remain unknown. The fact the police rolled right up on Rice is a central issue in the case. “Self imposed jeopardy,” is a serious tactical flaw front line and tactical officers must always be aware of.

    Having said that, I challenge anyone who wants to suggest the police should have known how old Rice was. I heard a police radio transmission where an officer described him as a twenty year old male. Rice’s age definitely inflames the outrage.

    You ask why none of the 20 officers didn’t put handcuffs on Cst Forcillo in the Yatim case.

    Let me ask you, how long did it take the SIU and Justice Department to arrive at the conclusion to lay murder charges?

    It took them over a month to decide after conducting a detailed review of the case.

    What you and so many other people seem to forget is that police officers are required to use force as part of their employment. That obligation is recognized in law and the courts have to be reasonable when they assess whether the level of force was justified or not.

    When making that assessment many factors must be considered including the officers state of mind, the suspects actions and resistance offered, the presences of weapons, the law and use of force principles.

    I agree, the trust is broken.

    Broken mostly on false perceptions and inflammatory, racially divisive media reporting.

    The police have a great challenge when it comes to breaking down those false perceptions.

    It won’t be easy.

    It will start with self evaluation, training and engaging the public.

    It’s clear the police have to evolve in some respects.

    Thank you for joining the conversation.

  9. Mr. Jewell you are obviously a very intelligent person, very capable of breaking every incident down into second by second narratives of every event which hits the media.
    I’m amazed at how you are only capable of seeing anything from one perspective, that of giving EVERY benefit of doubt to whatever LE officer is involved.
    That very singular perspective of anyone involved in Law Enforcement has a lot to do with the recent unrest down south as well as here in Canada after the Yatim/Forcillo incident.
    You seem totally incapable of even acknowledging the unwritten narrative of the outrage and only decrying how the LE officer involved did everything according to training or through the legal use of force.
    I’ll spell it out for you in simple terms.
    The public naturally supports law and order. Without it anarchy would reign and the public wants to be protected from this anarchy.
    The public also wants to know that they are protected from the state and against the use of force by state (or crown) employees unless there is no other option.
    If a LE’s life is truly in danger, then almost the entire public would have no dispute with that LE using whatever (including lethal) force was required.
    The public historically has defended LE’s right and use of lethal force because only one narrative has ever survived the event. The LE claimed his life was in danger, he applied lethal force and the public had no other information to “test” his claims. The public accepted his version.
    With the advent of cameras, LE is being viewed employing this lethal force and the public is now seeing when and why it is being utilized.
    With the LE officer being the one taking ultimate control of any interaction between themselves and the civilian involved, especially those interactions with “people in crisis” the singular point that never gets answered is “what did the LE officer do to de-escalate this event?
    The use of force wheel/model only has one direction, LE uses a level of force one level higher than their perceived level used by the civilian. There is usually no exit from this (often rapid) escalation of force. The only time that any display of a LE officer de-escalating usually has the preface by the Pro LE “talking head” in the media stating “the LE didn’t need to do this, but he did XXX to de-escalate the situation” as if the civilian should be happy and feel obligated the officer didn’t kill them. An unarmed civilian shouldn’t need to feel “thankful” that an armed LE officer didn’t kill him. That’s how third world nations operate with their “special” police.
    The public is unhappy that just because LE feels they CAN employ lethal force, doesn’t mean they MUST employ it. Hence the question once again, what did the LE officer do to de-escalate the situation?”
    As for specifics about the main cases recently in the media, In the Michael Brown case, the question is if Officer Wilson felt so in fear for his life that Mr. Brown was going to kill him through the window of a Chevy Tahoe (have you ever reached in the window of one of those from the outside? Seriously?) what did he do to de escalate rather than employing lethal force? He could have backed his vehicle up and waited for the backup he claimed to know was seconds away? Why did he reverse the vehicle so close that he couldn’t even exit the vehicle without Mr. Brown slamming the door to impede his exit? Both of those points ask the question, what did Officer Wilson do to de-escalate the situation? Much has been made about differing versions of events given by various witnesses. Why did investigators accept changing versions by Officer Wilson? Read his statements. First statement – he backed up because something disrespectful was said to him, next day it was because they refused to get off the road, both statements had no connection to the shoplifting call, and when he testified to the Grand Jury he claimed he recognized the clothing worn by Mr. Brown. If a civilian had changed his story that many times when claiming self defense, he’d be charged don’t you think? As for the questions to be answered by Mr. Brown about his conduct have been answered from the grave, those are the only answers he can give because his voice was silenced by Officer Wilson.
    As for Mr. Garner, What did the LE officer do to de escalate that situation? Mr. Garner wasn’t even selling illegal smokes, as he had in the past, the police were called because of a fight which Mr. Garner had just broken up. According to the video captured the officers involved surrounded Mr. Garner and quickly decided to arrest him. One has to question why the NYPD has policy prohibiting the choke hold. Why was this method used notwithstanding this policy? Why was it required to use that level of force on him? Other than being upset and feeling hassled, what was the reason he had ANY use of force used on him? Once it was used, and the police had control over him, should they not then be responsible for his welfare? I’m assuming you’ll agree he wouldn’t have been given free movement to move around to an easier to breathing position? The fact that LE took control of him, and forced him into a position which ultimately led to his death (either through the lingering effects of the choke hold, the neck compression or the chest compression) who is then responsible? Who should have de escalated that situation? To take it to level of ridiculous to prove the point, if he was chucked into the river handcuffed, would your opinion still be that LE did nothing wrong?
    For Tamir Rice, much has been said about the orange plug missing from the end of the toy gun, The toy was in his waistband, so even if it was intact it wouldn’t have changed that situation. Once again, who was responsible for de escalating that situation? I’m sure you can parse down that entire video frame by frame, but at the end of the day, a LE officer shot a 12 yr old within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene. Enough said.
    Another problem the public is having with LE is the closing of the “thin blue line”. When these situations occur, I have yet to see a LE officer turn to the officer involved and arrest them. This only lowers the public’s respect for LE. Other LE officers not responding to what the public see as obvious escalations as opposed to any attempt to de-escalate as well as the number of times no charges are laid does nothing to improve the public’s perception in the administration of justice.
    As an example refer to the case in BC where the LE officer kicked the brain damaged civilian in the head, the uniformed officer arrived just to in time to witness the kick, but did nothing to protect the civilian. In fact her only act was to handcuff the unconscious civilian. The individual involved in that situation is still a LE officer. The public has a right to as what does it take to remove a LE officer who obviously goes over the line? Why does the LE establishment insist on retaining individuals who so obviously use such excessive force? Forcillo is accused of committing a crime, why did none of the other 20 officers present arrest him?
    There is a lot there to read through, and rather than simply defending the LEs involved, I’d love to hear your suggestions on how LE can begin the process of rebuilding trust with the civilian population they are supposed to protect as opposed to kill. I think it’s obvious that trust is broken, and it’s not the public’s job to rebuild it.

  10. James G Jewell


    I think Wayne did a good job of answering your questions.

    In response to your last question, white males do get shot and killed by the Police. It just doesn’t get the same play in the media when it happens.

  11. James G Jewell


    It’s clear from your first paragraph you are responding to my article with an emotional response as opposed to an analytical one.

    I’m not on a crusade against political correctness, but I am passionate about confronting divisive racist rhetoric that has no basis in fact. A US Congressman alleging the Police beat Mr Garner to death and countless news agencies referring to the illegal choke as a cause of death.

    “I can’t speak,” is a reference to my amazement with the false narratives that main stream media continues to write.

    I never suggested Mr Garner, “had it coming” as you suggest. You can be flippant in your suggestion that Michael Brown was a “dangerous criminal,” if you like but if you were the police officer on the other end of his attempt to felony assault you might think differently.

    Witness and forensic evidence support the Officer Wilsons version of events but people refuse to accept reality.

    You want to suggest I don’t know more about the cases than CNN talking heads or a US Congressman. Twenty-six years in law enforcement, eight years in homicide investigation, 200 homicide cases, five years in SWAT and expertise in Police Use of Force investigations doesn’t qualify me to analyze these cases and express an informed opinion?

    Let’s keep the conversation reality based.

    With respect, I find your story about a cop taking your liquor and drinking it in front of you somewhat incredulous. Sounds more like urban legend or something from a Hollywood movie script.

    You suggest I can’t fault people for talking about their, “true narrative” but I disagree. People in leadership roles or media shouldn’t be able to say anything they want or spew emotionally charged racist rhetoric that has no basis in fact.

    Even Mr Garners daughter said she doesn’t believe the death of her father was racially motivated.

    That doesn’t stop the protestors from engaging in one of the most twisted social movements of our time. “Hands up don’t shoot” & “I can’t breath” are two concepts built on false narratives perpetuated by the media.

    Mr Garners death was a tragedy.

    A unintended death that should not have happened.

    That didn’t make the officers guilty of murder as so many people want to suggest.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Speaking of inflammatory rhetoric… In your headline you are equating Eric Garner saying “I can’t breathe” before his death with your perceived battle against political correctness with “I can’t speak”. Eric Garner is dead and can no longer speak for himself. His kids are fatherless, his wife is a widow and you are equating that with your crusade against political correctness?

    Who is it that is trying to stop you from your opinion writing that you “can’t speak”? The media is full of people saying things like what you are saying. You could fill countless pages with stories about how Eric Garner had it coming, how Michael Brown was a dangerous criminal. On nearly every mainstream media story about these incidents the comments section is full of racist diatribes.

    Do you need to draw this fake line in the sand to pretend like you are fighting an underdog battle against political correctness? Talk about a false narrative. Every one has their own perspective but you are the one writing about the “true narrative” like you somehow know more about this case than CNN talking heads or Congressmen. If they don’t have the true narrative then you sure don’t either.

    Tell the media to call it an ‘against-NYPD-written-policy’ choke-hold, instead of an illegal chokehold if you are so worried about semantics and the “true narrative”. Either way the media are only the messenger. Many of the people who perceive the legal/law enforcement industry as racist got to that viewpoint from first hand experiences with the police not some CNN story. I know I did.

    I grew up learning to respect the police. We had a friendly OPP constable who came to our school to talk to us, and took us to the local station to fingerprint us. That was over thirty years ago and he is long retired but I remember his name and the time we spent with him. The positive opinion of police that he left with me did not start to change until years later.

    When I was a teenager I had an encounter with an off-duty local policeman while we were underage drinking in public. A crime about as common as selling loose cigarettes. He took our alcohol and proceeded to drink it in front of us and then drove off. I no longer had unconditional respect for the police.

    Later as a young adult I moved from Ontario to California. I remember over-hearing two LAPD officers having a conversation between their cars. One said “Did you hear about that murder last night?”, the other said “Yeah, it’s just n*ggers killing n*ggers”. I was shocked at the time, and more of my respect evaporated. That was twenty years ago.

    Over the years I have had more experiences with the police ranging from very positive to very negative. I’ve been a bouncer and applied choke-holds, I’ve had friends abused by police officers. I see more than one side. Any “true narrative” is a lot more complicated than can be expressed by one person in a short article. Police are racist, police help the community, the job we ask the police to do is not easy. These statements are all true to some extent, and you can’t fault people for talking about what is their “true narrative”.

    What many people see as the biggest problems in this case are unequal enforcement based on colour and the “thin blue line”. Even if an individual police officer commits a crime other officers will defend them – right or wrong. This is a line some think the grand jury was afraid to cross as well. What everyone seems to agree on is that Eric Garner’s case was a tragedy, and the title of this article is insensitive to that fact. You can do better Mr Jewell.

  13. James G Jewell

    Your analysis is bang on.

    The media continues to call Eric Garner the man who was killed with an “illegal choke hold.”

    I don’t believe the effects of positional asphyxia are well know in law enforcement circles. I wouldn’t know anything about it if I hadn’t worked on the Hanson case referred to in my story.

    Appreciate your comments.

  14. Anonymountie

    So, anonymous at 4:56 pm – if we found an example of a white man killed by police, that would sooth your criticism? I present for your consideration Robert Dziekański… the reality is that police use force as and when they are required to – sometimes they use too much, or misjudge a situation and use force when it wasn’t required, but I don’t think that race is as much of a factor as people believe it to be.

    James, the frustrating thing with these recent cases is that once the media has decided what the narrative of the incident is going to be, they simply refuse to change that narrative in the face of the facts as they become available. So, since the pundits have decided that Garner died as a result of an ‘illegal chokehold’, in the face of evidence that he was able to use his windpipe to complain seconds after the hold had been released, that’s the story they will tell, and it’s what people will believe. Likewise the Ferguson incident, no matter what facts subsequently came out, was an instance where an officer executed a surrendering man for no reason at all.

    The media doesn’t consider these facts inconvenient, they consider them irrelevant. Once the media has decided on it’s narrative, any facts that don’t fit are simply ignored.

    The other issue with this ‘choke hold’ is that it isn’t at all clear to me that it IS a choke-hold. There are at least three techniques that can be applied with an arm around someone’s throat, the headlock, a choke hold and carotid control (the infamous sleeper). When wrestling with someone as large and obviously strong as Garner, any officer is going to grab whichever limb presents itself and try to get the indiviudal under control. It’s unfortunate that the officers weren’t aware of the possibility of positional asphyxia in an obese subject when cuffed and proned, and this seems like an error in training. Of course, in several years as an RCMP officer, I wasn’t made aware of it either.

  15. For someone watching a video, its easy to say he was already handcuffed and down. When confronted with a physical confrontation, adrenalin and focused attention (tunnel vision) kick it. That has to be recognized and broken before you acknowledge that the accused is in fact under control. As for the 12 shots instead of 6, I say, get into a high stress, possibly life or death, situation and try to count the number of shots. In shooting situations, police are taught to shoot center mass until the threat stops. Again I defy anyone to decide how many shots it takes to become excessive. As ridiculous a comment as why didn’t he shoot the knife/gun out of his hand. A lot of stuff you see in movies don’t happen in real life.

  16. What about the knee to the neck and all of that force and pressure, he was already handcuffed and down. In the Brown case why did he shoot 12 shots, 6 hit, isn’t all of this excessive. How come they never do this to white males?

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