This video of a man being choked to death by police is getting a lot of attention lately:
Even The New York Times covered the incident. This sort of thing is normally New York Post territory. Of course, the video does come from the Post.
You can hear people in the background talking about police bullying an innocent man whose only crime was trying to break up a fight. Police claim he was initially approached for “illegally” selling cigarettes, and that he resisted arrest. The video clearly shows the man, 43-year-old Eric Garner, dropping to the ground while complaining he can’t breath.
The video is being shared and re-shared all across Facebook. It’s appeared in my news feed four times in the last week, usually with comments welcoming viewers to the new police state — a place where no one is truly free and the cops get to kill whoever they want.
Is that an accurate picture?
It’s easy to see how people feel that way when we see daily instances of government abusing its power and invading our liberties.
But I don’t think it’s entirely accurate.
I know a lot of people who work in law enforcement; they love liberty. Their first concern is public safety and they serve the public faithfully. I think the majority of police officers fit that description, albeit with variations in political belief.
When people see police brutality and cry about this becoming a brutal police state, they fail to see incidents like these for what they are: the actions of individuals rather than accepted police or government procedure. The police in this case acted like idiots, especially the cop who put Garner in a chokehold. As the NYT article noted, the chokehold was banned by the New York Police Department more than 20 years ago.
I feel for Eric Garner’s family and don’t blame his friends and neighbors for being outraged. These officers ought to be fired. Or, at the least, they need to be suspended and retrained as a condition for returning to the force.
But cops doing bad things and a police state taking hold are not the same thing. Trust me: If a police state begins to emerge, you’ll know it.