Over the last few weeks, the narrative of the results of high-profile incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, NY have been shaped by the divisive rhetoric of the media as well as local and national leaders such as NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, Attorney General Eric Holder and even President Barack Obama.
While they are creating juicy sound bites that seem to be intent on driving a larger wedge between the minority community and law enforcement, they ignore several unavoidable truths about both cases. Based on the release of the grand jury documents in Ferguson, the following unavoidable truths have been made public record, but are largely ignored by elected officials and the media:
- The unavoidable truth is that Michael Brown robbed a store just before his interaction with Officer Darren Wilson.
- The unavoidable truth is that Michael Brown physically attacked Officer Wilson.
- The unavoidable truth is that several independent witnesses observed this interaction.
- The unavoidable truth is that not one credible witness heard Michael Brown say, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
- In New York City, the unavoidable truth is that Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo was sent to the Tompkinsville area of Staten Island due to community complaints about quality of life issues and a directive by then Chief of Department Phillip Banks.
According to the New York Daily News, the sale of loosies (single, loose cigarettes) had been on Banks’ radar since at least March, when it was discussed at a meeting at NYPD Headquarters about quality-of-life issues, a police source said.
Banks’ office also conducted surveillance on Bay Street in Staten Island and took pictures, one of which shows three men believed to be involved in an illegal cigarette sale. The Daily News reviewed the photograph and Garner is not in it.
At around the same time, on March 27, a caller to the city’s 311 hotline complained about the issue, saying a group of men had been selling untaxed cigarettes, and sometimes marijuana, on Bay Street every day for the past three years, a second source said. The caller identified one of the sellers as “a man named Eric.”
The next day, Garner was arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes, one of three pending cases before his death.
- The unavoidable truth is that quality-of-life offenses have been a focus of the NYPD in every neighborhood in New York City since the early 1990s.
- The unavoidable truth is that Eric Garner was a morbidly obese man with “pre-existing conditions of obesity, asthma and possible heart disease. “
- The unavoidable truth is that Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo was involved in an enforcement operation that had a uniformed supervisor present while Eric Garner was being subdued.
Race-baiters and politicians intent on creating a great divide ignore the inconvenient fact that the supervisor on the scene was African-American.
Obviously, anyone is free to have an opinion or express outrage in a lawful manner.
Additionally, no one is suggesting that the actions of officers are beyond reproach and shouldn’t be subject to review by those qualified to do so.
But, you can’t have your own truth. The unavoidable truth doesn’t have an agenda. It’s not worried about TV ratings or voter polls.
There are many questions rising from both of the incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island. But the most important questions have little to do with the current flames being fanned by government officials and the media.
Meanwhile, LEO line of duty deaths are up 16% nationwide for the year to date. Deaths of LEOs by gunfire are up 65% for the year to date.
Where is the outrage? Where are the demonstrators and activists? Where is the media?
Where are the politicians calling for reform?
The unavoidable truth is the politicians, the media and the activists seem to have little time for the truth.
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Anthony P. Ragona is a retired 23- year veteran of both The NYC Transit Police and the NYPD. During his law enforcement career he patrolled the New York City subways and has worked in various assignments including the Organized Crime Control Bureau, the Detective Bureau and the Internal Affairs Bureau while ascending through the ranks of his department, culminating with the designation of Lieutenant Commander Detective.