Don’t let politics stop us from fixing policing after Eric Garner’s death

For a minute there it looked like left, right and libertarian would share the same outrage over the non-indictment of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner.

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The camera helped. Unlike the death of Michael Brown, which will forever be muddied with the uncertainty of conflicting testimony, we have the the grisly Garner video.

There was Garner’s annoyance about being hassled by police yet again over allegedly selling loose cigarettes. There was officer Daniel Pantaleo talking him down in what sure looked like a banned chokehold, which lasted for a good 10 seconds. There was Pantaleo pressing again on Garner’s head while Garner half-begged, half-choked “I can’t breathe” over and over again.

Almost worse than that was the additional footage which showed police and paramedics and EMTs perhaps mildly perturbed about Garner’s minutes of unconsciousness. There was time for police to search his pockets and to shoo onlookers away, but not to deliver lifesaving aid.

According to the medical examiner, Garner died from a heart attack, brought on by the chokehold and chest compression. Garner’s existing medical problems, including asthma and high blood pressure, didn’t help.

An indictment of Officer Pantaleo (who has been the subject of citizen lawsuits in the past) for this death should have been the next step. Instead, the non-indictment on Wednesday was the opening bell in a political bout over just why Garner needed to be stopped and treated so roughly by police.

The left, as with Ferguson, has been raising high the banner of racial injustice.

Black lives matter” has become a hashtag and a chant. And so — eerily — has “I can’t breathe.”

America’s over broad laws have made felons of many, with blacks heavily represented, and the social disdain for such people remains. Law-breakers are everywhere. When they die, it is usually not treated as a tragedy.

The drug war has only began to pull back, but there are still many casualties. And these effects continue to be quantitatively racist. Exhibit A was the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy, which targeted Hispanics and blacks like Garner, mostly.

Whether racism is the real issue or not, one estimates suggest that blacks are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than whites. Other have noticed that blacks and whites do illegal drugs at the same rate, yet blacks tend to end up arrested and imprisoned for longer more often.

Sen. Rand Paul has frequently been well-balanced in his commentary on racial disparities in criminal justice. Some of it is well founded, and some of it is simply the feeling that police are outside invaders who do not serve communities. If you are frustrated because you are being searched endlessly for contraband, blaming you for playing the race card probably isn’t the answer.

So liberals are right that race is an issue, but then their remedies are not terribly helpful. You cannot legislate the bias out of people. You can officially tell cops not to assume the worst of young black or Hispanic males, but at the end of the day, if they have a legal excuse for a stop, they will find one.

What we need to do is remove most of the legal excuses for those stops. Prohibitions cause a loss of rights. People marching in the streets of New York, and all over the country, should know this. Racial issues are something to work out for yourself (though explicit racism should not be tolerated in cops, or other public officials). Public issues of legal force and searches are something that can be changed.

This is why the fact of New York’s high cigarette taxes cannot be ignored. Some liberals — demonstrated in this Talking Points Memo piece — seem to be offended by any attempt to tie Garner’s death to cigarettes taxes. Which is absurd.

We don’t know Officer Pantaleo’s true feelings about minorities. We don’t even know if he wanted to hurt Garner, so much as make him cowed, compliant, and cuffed.

We do know that Garner had a history of such non-crime crimes as possessing marijuana and black market cigarettes. We also know the drug war has proven itself a gift to police power. What is so different about illicit cigarettes?

Look, it’s not either/or. We can talk about race. We can talk about taxes and black markets. We can talk about how cameras didn’t bring Garner’s family any justice.

But cops should still be filmed, racism should not be tolerated in the public sphere and we desperately need to take away the victimless crimes which serve as a perfect excuse for police to choke a man on a public sidewalk.

All of them.

What do you think?

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Here’s a reminder of a few times when Al Sharpton looked like a real as*hole

Police: Chokehold victim complicit in own death