Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: December 4, 2014
Guest: Joel Berger, Marq Claxton, Ronnie Dunn, Norm Stamper, Caleb Mason
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. Thank you very
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: "We can`t breathe" reads the front page of today`s "New York
Daily News". Tonight, that is one of the chants the demonstrators around
the country are using to protest the New York City police killing of Eric
PROTESTERS: If I can`t breathe! You can`t breathe! If I can`t breathe!
You can`t breathe!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Failure to indict becomes the nation`s rallying cry
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Protesters are back on the streets again tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are workers unions. There are students. There
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People all over the country are lifting up their
PROTESTS: The system is! Guilty! The system is! Guilty!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fury over the chokehold case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a just decision, a difficult decision, we
understand. But it was a just decision.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not fair. What do they not see? How could they
possibly not indict?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you`re speaking, you can breathe.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many Americans feel deep
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No laughing matter for anyone, including Jon Stewart.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was action and in that action, someone died.
STEWART: But I would really settle for less (EXPLETIVE DELETED) tragedy to
be honest with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone has to be accountable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we put it from this moment?
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Take that pain and frustration
and work for change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s much anger in the air, but we are committed to
a dignified campaign.
MARC MORIAL, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: The urgency of the moment is a
reawakening about the cause of justice.
DE BLASIO: We are all responsible now. The weight of history can`t be our
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a movement that has been ignited. It will not
go away until justice is served.
PROTESTERS: Black youths are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight
O`DONNELL: Before Eric Garner was choked and killed in what the chief
medical examiner labeled a homicide, he said this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC GARNER: Every time you see me, you mess with me. I`m tired of this.
This stops today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It stops today. Protesters have taken Eric Garner`s words and
turned them into the protest chant, "This stops today", one day after a
grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold
death of Eric Garner.
Protesters gathered in cities across the country, from the Brooklyn Bridge
in New York City, to Washington, D.C., to Oakland, California, and to
Chicago, where protesters shut down Lake Shore Drive tonight.
Objection to the grand jury`s finding crossed political and ideological
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, BLAZE TV: How this cop did not go to jail, was not held
responsible is beyond me. This is the New York police completely out of
control doing something -- they did not murder him, but manslaughter
absolutely should have been considered. Why that wasn`t considered is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Earlier today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the New
York City Police Department will retrain its police force to better
interact with the community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DE BLASIO: The relationship between police and community has to change.
The way we go about policing has to change. It has to change in this city.
It has to change in this country. I am fundamentally convinced it will
One of the focal points at the academy is changing how our officers talk
with residents of the city, changing how they listen, slowing down some
interactions that sometimes escalate too quickly, giving officers a chance
to wait until backup and supervision comes, deescalating, using less force
whenever possible. These are fundamental lessons that will be taught here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The Staten Island district attorney released very limited
information about the grand jury`s process. We now know as a result of
that release of information that 23 jurors heard from 50 witnesses, more
than half of whom were police officers, emergency medical personnel and
Unlike the Michael Brown case, the attorney general is not legally
empowered to release any more detail about the grand jury at this time.
But the lawyer for Officer Pantaleo told "The New York Times" that in his
two hours of testimony, Officer Pantaleo, quote, "wanted to get across to
the grand jury that it was never his intention to injury or harm anyone.
He was really just describing how he was attempting to arrest someone."
Officer Pantaleo`s lawyer said that Pantaleo tried to get off Eric Garner,
quote, "as quick as he could", and "thought that once EMT arrived,
everything would be OK."
But it wasn`t OK. Eric Garner was left lying motionless on the ground for
at least seven minutes. Police officers at the scene made absolutely no
attempt to help or resuscitate him. When the EMTs arrive, they also made
no attempt to resuscitate Eric Garner. At one point, one of the officers
says, "He`s still breathing", after an onlooker questions why no one is
giving him CPR.
Today, the president of the New York City Patrolmen`s Benevolent
Association, that is the police union that represents police officers, said
that Officer Pantaleo and all the other police officers and emergency
personnel did their jobs properly that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK LYNCH, PBA PRESIDENT: While bringing that person to the ground,
yes, they said, we can`t breathe. But the police officers and the EMS did
what they`re supposed do at that time. If you`re speaking, you can
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is NBC`s Anne Thompson, who is in Lower
Anne, what`s the situation there?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Lawrence. We are on East
Broadway. I`m with a group of about 200 protesters who started their night
at Foley Square. They walked throughout Lower Manhattan. We walked up to
Union Square. They`re now walking back to 1 Police Plaza.
Now, tonight`s group is smaller and a group of I would say more dedicated
activists. But what has been missing tonight are those confrontations that
we saw last night between police and protesters. This has been a very
peaceful march. In fact, one of the ironies is that even though they chant
sayings that are very derogatory to the New York Police Department, it`s
the New York Police Department that has been clearing roads so that they
can march without getting hit by traffic.
About 10 minutes ago, we crossed the Williamsburg Bridge where the police
were lined up, to stop the traffic, to protect the protesters. And, in
fact, behind me, there are some police cars who are sort of catching up,
you know, making sure the back of the protest is protected as well.
But the point of this protest tonight, Lawrence, is to command
accountability from the police department, from government officials.
These people say they want an indictment in the death of Eric Garner. If
it hasn`t happened on the local level, they want it to happen on the
federal level, and they won`t rest until that happens -- Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Anne Thompson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
We`re now joined by MSNBC`s Joy Reid, and "The Washington Post`s" Eugene
Joy Reid, you have the protesters echoing Eric Garner saying "I can`t
breathe". The New York City police union leader explained the medicine of
this for us today. He said, "If you`re speaking, you can breathe."
JOY REID, "THE REID REPORT" HOST: Yes. And that has become a talking
point for people who want to defend Officer Pantaleo here or want to blame
Eric Garner for his own death and say essentially that: (a), it`s his own
fault because he was somehow resisting, even though you can see, even at
one point, his hands are raised. He was not offering resistance. And just
the fact that he could get out the words, which you could hear him barely
able to get the words out "I can`t breathe" over and over and over again,
well, that means by default he was breathing, and even after he was down.
You know, I think one of the things when you were showing that video,
Lawrence, the symmetry between this case, the Mike Brown case, and the
Tamir Rice case, in the reaction of human beings to somebody lying on the
ground in extreme duress is none. No reaction at all. Tamir Rice left on
the grown dying for something like seven minutes before anyone offered him
any aid and none of the police officers participated and offered him aid.
And Eric Garner lying there dying and people are videotaping it saying,
this guy can`t breathe, he`s in distress, and this sort of nonchalant
reaction of the people around him, no attempt to offer aid. And then Mike
Brown`s body lying on the ground like so much waste dispose on the ground
for four hours. I think when people use the term "black lives matter",
that`s what they`re talking about, the idea that a human being`s demise is
sort of unremarked upon by the authorities standing right over him.
O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson, New York City is filled with great emergency
medical technicians. Eric Garner had the bad luck of getting what looks
like the worst EMT team working in America that day. And they, I believe,
should have been as much worried about the outcome in that grand jury as
Officer Pantaleo. The idea that only one person there was possibly legally
responsible for that death I think is fiction. I think there was a gross
dereliction of duty by the EMTs and others there.
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think absolutely, Lawrence. I
think they may have been the worst EMT team in the world operating that
day. And frankly, the first time I saw the video, that was almost more
shocking to me than the altercation and the chokehold, the fact that people
whose jobs it is to save lives clearly saw a life that wasn`t worth saving,
as far as they were concerned, or even trying.
And, you know, this has got to change. This simply has got to change. And
it is cold comfort to say that maybe people will realize this after the
events we`ve seen. It shouldn`t take this sort of thing to make people do
their jobs and do their jobs in the proper way.
O`DONNELL: Yes, everyone on that scene responding was contemptuous of Eric
Garner even while he was dying there before their eyes.
We have a really striking moment here where there were some people on FOX
News last night expressing shock at this outcome at the grand jury. This
goes across the political spectrum.
I want to listen to what Glenn Beck -- more of what Glenn Beck said about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: This is the way Americans deal with injustice. We`ve let the system
work. The system didn`t work here. Now, let`s calmly, rationally say, why
didn`t the system work? What were the instructions to the grand jury?
What was the evidence that they said, you know, didn`t matter? Because
we`ve seen the video.
Now, explain to me how that`s not manslaughter. And if you can`t
rationally explain it, or if it`s because of some loophole, then we as
Americans need to fix that loophole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, I couldn`t have written it better myself.
REID: Yes, indeed. I think this is, you know, for the moment, because --
you know, we`ve had -- we`ve been here before. The Trayvon Martin case
started off as a universally agreed upon something egregious here.
But in this case, there is no question because there is that videotape.
And much like the Rodney King case, you`re asked not to believe your lying
eyes. What you see in front of you is not a crime, even though it violates
the plain reading of the code that police use, they`re actual police manual
says, you can`t do that, haven`t been able to do it since 1993. That is
clear, no one is arguing that.
One of the charges, the most minimal charge that Officer Pantaleo could
have been charged with has the words, "compression of the neck in it". It
describes what happened but yet the grand jury couldn`t find it.
I was struck by a "Daily News" interview with the young man who shot the
video. And he said that he testified for all of 10 minutes. The officer
testified for over an hour. He testified for ten minutes and said that he
felt the grand jurors were indifferent to what he had to say, weren`t
listening to him. That the only questions they had were about Eric
Garner`s actions, why was he there, what was he doing?
I think the fact that people even with the videotape can`t bring themselves
to see, not a crime, but the possibility of a crime, something worthy of
going to trial, does lead you to ask, no matter where you are on the
ideological spectrum, look, if you can`t get an indictment here, where can
you get an indictment?
O`DONNELL: And --
ROBINSON: And, Lawrence, Lawrence --
O`DONNELL: Go ahead, Gene.
ROBINSON: Conservatives should be going crazy over this.
O`DONNELL: Yes, they should.
ROBINSON: There`s no greater power that we entrust to the state than the
power to take liberty and life. And to see it misused and abused in this
way in case after case after case should be driving conservatives just
crazy. You know, we`ve had a little of that from the conservative side,
but we should have a lot more.
O`DONNELL: Yes, police officers are the only government workers whose
abuse conservatives will defend under any circumstances. And the only
unions and the only union members and the only union leadership the
conservatives ever support.
REID: Yes, not only support, but it`s the only union that`s absolutely 100
percent effective. We have neutered the union movement in this country.
They can`t protect nurses, they can`t protect teachers, but by golly, they
can protect the police.
And what I wonder why they would want to protect officers who are clearly
violating the codes the police wrote themselves, the rules they wrote for
themselves. How that help this policing, I can`t figure out.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to get more about the police union in tonight`s
Joy Reid and Eugene Robinson, thank you both very much for joining me
ROBINSON: Great to be here, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Up next, the police department`s own internal affairs
investigation of the killing of Eric Garner and details about the Cleveland
police officer who shot and killed a 12-year-old boy. That officer was
actually judged to be incompetent to be a police officer before he got his
job on the Cleveland police force.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, the head of the New York City police union
says that the man who killed Eric Garner, his words, is a model police
officer. I`m going to have to rewrite that one a little bit.
O`DONNELL: You`re looking at live demonstrations happening right now
across the country, protesting the New York City police killing of Eric
Coming up, the police department internal investigation could result in the
discipline or dismissal of the police officer involved in causing the death
of Eric Garner. In the end, that will all be up to police Commissioner
Bill Bratton. That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLASIO: One chapter has closed. With the decision of this grand jury,
there are more chapters ahead. The police department will initiate now its
own investigation. They make its own decisions about the administrative
actions it can take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Killing by police is investigated by police, because internal
investigation is often intended to defend police action more than
investigated, less than 1 percent of all killings by police officers are
ruled unjustifiable by police departments even though independent studies
have found that 25 percent to 50 percent of the victims have been unarmed.
Every one of those words that you just heard, I actually wrote over 30
years ago, in "The New York Times`" first op-ed piece about police abuse of
deadly force. Much has changed and much has stayed the same in police
internal investigations since then. The NYPD`s internal investigation into
the killing of Eric Garner is the next challenge the officers involved in
that case will have to face.
Joining me now are: Joel Berger, a civil rights and civil defense lawyer,
and, Marq Claxton of the New Law Enforcement Alliance.
Joel, you have handled police abuse cases. Tell us about the internal
affairs procedure and the New York City Police Department right now that
this officer and the others involved in the death of Eric Garner are going
to have to go through.
JOEL BERGER, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, internal affairs will
investigate it initially. Although they may hold off if there`s a federal
grand jury proceeding. But assuming that doesn`t happen, then internal
affairs will investigate. They`ll recommend charges and specifications.
The NYPD advocates office will prosecute the case, and in all likelihood,
Bill Bratton will possibly dismiss this officer.
O`DONNELL: Well, hold on. When you say will there be something, a form
that resembles a trial of sorts?
BERGER: Yes. There is a departmental trial.
O`DONNELL: And he`ll be represented by a lawyer? Will Bill Bratton be
present in that?
BERGER: No. There will be a trial commissioner to serves at the pleasure
of Bill Bratton.
O`DONNELL: So, Bill Bratton doesn`t have the right to say, we don`t need
the commissioner for this, I will sit in his stead?
BERGER: That`s right.
But he will -- I would be amazed if there are recommendations, after we go
through all that, anything other than the dismissal of this officer.
BERGER: Because it`s so obvious. I`m more concerned about, are the cases
where someone doesn`t die, where we don`t have a videotape, we have
hundreds of those where people are injured, where people are falsely
arrested. Internal affairs does nothing about those.
O`DONNELL: Marq Claxton, former New York City police officer, what is your
sense of how internal affairs will handle this?
MARQ CLAXTON, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Well, I think it`s pretty fascinating.
I think most people will agree the relationship between the prosecutor`s
office and district attorney`s office and police departments around the
nation is to be kind, symbiotic. Well, the relationship between internal
affairs and the police bureaus in their department is actually incestuous.
And so, there`s little confidence from those who have experience and time
and evaluate these cases and understand how internal affairs actually
operates and how ineffective they`ve been in some really high profile cases
and have confidence in their ability.
However, I will say it appears that Commissioner Bratton has really placed
himself in place a high standard and it`s likely, I agree with Mr. Berger,
it`s likely that the police officer will be terminated.
As an addendum to that, actually, years ago, Rudy Giuliani when he was
mayor fired a police officer even before a departmental trial. There was a
conclusion to any internal affairs reports. So, there is precedent for
them taking immediate action even today.
O`DONNELL: Talk about that, Joel. Would there be a sufficient legal
precedent for Bratton to do that?
BERGER: I think he could if he wanted to.
O`DONNELL: But would then on the officer could appeal through some
BERGER: Right, there would be a process.
O`DONNELL: It would be the same fact finding style.
BERGER: Yes, I agree. But the real problem is that in these very high-
profile cases here in New York City, with the commissioner like Bill
Bratton in all likelihood, something will be done. What concerns me the
most is I see cases every day of people who are beaten, people who are
falsely arrested and internal affairs does nothing about those. Lawsuit
against NYPD went up 100 percent, they doubled during the last five years
of the Kelly and Bloomberg administration. And we`re still seeing the
effects of that today.
With a police force of 35,000 people, that`s not going to change overnight.
There they`re still ticketing kids for riding their bike on the sidewalk.
They`re still, you know, arresting people for the most minor offenses.
And, yes, you can get out a summons instead of an arrest. If the person
doesn`t have ID, they run them through the system and take them through
O`DONNELL: Marq Claxton, Joel is now talking about a change in police
culture that the mayor has started to talk about as a result of this
incident and what it`s brought to light. Talk about what you think needs
to change within police culture to avoid these kinds of situations.
CLAXTON: There really need to be a tremendous and revolutionary shift in
the paradigm of policing throughout the nation. I think since the late
`80s and early `90s, a shift away from more community-based policing models
and to an enforcement -- a strong enforcement, playing off of the broken
windows theory and practice initiated in the police department by Bill
Bratton, the practice itself, he didn`t establish the theory, but he
initiated the concepts within of the theory in the New York Police
So, I think transforming and shifting that model more towards community-
based law enforcement is a challenge, but what`s necessary here. We`ve
gone through these 10 or 15 years of excessive, heavy-handed,
overmilitarized, quota-driven, data-driven enforcement for minor
infractions. We`ve really bombarded the criminal justice system with minor
infractions as well.
So, maybe the shift needs to be shifting more towards community-based
programming, incorporating community ideas and concepts with all the
additional training that you can have.
O`DONNELL: So, I think the -- we have a unanimous agreement tonight that
Bill Bratton is very likely to take a strong action in this case within the
internal investigation probably dismissal. And, Joel, to hear that from
you who have seen so many people get away with things in these internal
affairs investigation, and Marq, for you, too, knowing how easy it is for
people to skate through there when there isn`t videotape anyway.
You know, I`ve lived in every city where Bill Bratton has been police
commissioner -- Boston, New York, Los Angeles. I`ve seen him crack down
hard in some cases. I`ve seen other cases where I wish he was stronger.
It seems to me based on everything we`re seeing from the mayor and him that
your bet, Joel and Marq, I think is probably right.
BERGER: My son was in college in L.A. during the Bratton years. I watched
that very closely. But I`m really concerned -- we shouldn`t have to wait
for someone to die before a bad police officer is fired. That`s really the
important thing. The important message we should get from this.
O`DONNELL: Joel Berger and Marq Claxton, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.
A quick programming note tomorrow morning, I will be on "MORNING JOE",
along with the New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Coming up, the loudest defender of the chokehold that killed Eric Garner.
He`s in "The Rewrite."
And, we have new details about the Cleveland police officer who shot and
killed a 12-year-old boy. In his first year as a police officer, he burst
into tears at a shooting range and was judged unfit emotionally unfit to
serve in a police department. So, how did he end up with a Cleveland
police badge and gun? That`s next.
O`DONNELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, Unfit for Duty. Timothy Lohman,
the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old, Tamir Rice,
last month is an officer who had, quote, a "dismal" handgun performance
record in his previous police job.
NBC affiliate WKYC obtained personnel records from the Independence Ohio
Police Department. A November, 2012 internal memo described Timothy Lohman
as someone who, quote, "could not follow simple direction, could not
communicate clear thoughts nor recollections. I do not believe time nor
training will be able to change or correct the deficiencies."
Lohman was, quote, "distracted and weepy and incommunicative while he was
on the gun range. Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live
range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not
believe Patrolman Lohman shows the maturity needed to work in our
Officer Lohman was recommended for dismissal from the Independence Police
Force after just six months, but he was allowed to just resign.
When the Cleveland Police Department, hired Mr. Lohman, they did so without
having seen that personal file with all of those comments, and that they
only asked the Human Resources Department in the Independence office if
there were any incidents that they should be aware of.
And the answer they got was no. The Cleveland Police Department said they
will now request personnel files from previous employers. But, today,
Attorney General Eric Holder, who was already conducting an investigation
of the Cleveland Police Force before Tamir Rice was killed, announced this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: After a thorough and independent
review, the Department of Justice has completed its Civil Pattern of
Practice investigation into the Cleveland Division of Police.
We have determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the
Cleveland Division of Public Police engages in a pattern and practice of
using excessive force. And a result of systemic deficiencies including
institution accountability, inadequate training and equipment ineffective
policies and inadequate engagement in the community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Ronnie Dunn, an associate professor of Urban
Studies at Cleveland State University. Professor, there`s the Attorney
General saying pattern -- practices that brought abusing excessive force
and inadequate training.
But there was no amount of training, apparently, that was going to turn
Timothy Lohman into a useful police officer.
RONNIE DUNN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY: Absolutely,
Lawrence. Timothy Lohman should have never been hired by the Cleveland
It brings into question the recruitment and psychological testing of these
officers, as well as the investigation of their backgrounds. He was
He should have never been allowed to police the streets of any city.
O`DONNELL: What is the reaction tonight in Cleveland to both the Attorney
General`s announcements about the department. Is that something that
people were not surprised by or had a feeling about.
And then, also, the idea that that police force could have hired someone
DUNN: Well, the feeling in the community is one of cautious optimism.
We`ve been down this road before.
The Justice Department was here in 2004. And they found some of the same
deficiencies that were cited in this investigation. So, this time, the
community is, once again, cautiously optimistic that we will be at the
table and engaged.
And that in light of these recent tragedies, the unfortunate death of Tamir
Rice and mentally-ill woman that died in police custody not more than two
weeks ago, that substantive change will actually come this time.
O`DONNELL: And what about hiring practices. They finally decided, "Oh, I
guess, we will do background checks on the police officers we hire."
DUNN: Well, yes. But that has to be part of the process going forward.
And as we move forward with the negotiating the consent degree that the
city will sign with the Justice Department and the involvement in the -- of
the community and a collaborative agreement type of approach that was taken
in Cincinnati and other cities that have come under the jurisdiction of the
O`DONNELL: Professor Ronnie Dunn, thank you very much for joining us
DUNN: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, in the "Rewrite," the staunchest defender of the use
of a deadly chokehold against Eric Garner will tell you that what you see
on that video is not a chokehold.
O`DONNELL: You are watching live images of demonstrators in New York City
in Times Square where police have gathered and demonstrators have gathered.
Everything is, so far, peaceful there.
We have an unofficial tally of 28 possible arrests in New York City this
evening as this protest continues and sprawls into other areas of
And I think we now have an image of the Manhattan Bridge -- it looks like -
- yes, that is the Manhattan Bridge where some protesters have, apparently,
blocked some traffic which you are able to see in some of those shots.
We will be monitoring this situation and bring you anything that we should
be reporting from this protest if anything gets more active. We will be
right back. The "Rewrite" is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK LYNCH, HEAD, NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICERS UNION: He`s the model
of what we want the police officer to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Police officers can do no wrong, in the eyes of their union
leaders at least. That was Patrick Lynch, the head of the New York City
Police Officers Union who is paid to tell you that the police officer you
see on video, choking Eric Garner to death, is a model police officer.
That`s the way police unions play it. Police unions don`t care about the
truth in cases like this.
Police union leadership care about nothing other than getting their guy off
the hook. And police union leaders like Patrick Lynch have no problem,
none, standing in front of microphones and saying things that are provably
untrue in the regular course of their public relations campaigns for police
officers in trouble.
Patrick Lynch was not content to say today that the officers who
participated in the homicide of Eric Garner did nothing against the police
rules, or did nothing technically illegal. That wasn`t good enough for
He had to go all the way. He had to say that the officer who violated the
department`s 20-year ban against chokeholds is a model of what we want a
police officer to be.
That model police officer has already caused the City of New York at least
$30,000 in a lawsuit where he was accused of illegally strip-searching two
black men and touching their genitals.
That model police officer is being sued in an unlawful arrest case that is
The New York City Police Force is the largest in the country, with 34,000
sworn officers. Most of them have never been sued by anyone, for anything,
and never will be.
Most New York City Police officers have never killed anyone and will never
kill anyone. Most New York City Police officers and most police officers
in America complete their entire careers, decades, without ever firing a
shot in the line of duty.
That is the profile of a model police officer -- never in trouble, never
the subject of a grand jury investigation, never investigated by the
Internal Affairs Department, never sued for violating the rights of
Here was the union leader`s description of the chokehold that we`ve all
seen, that he said today was not a chokehold --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNCH: A chokehold is directly around the neck and brought to the ground
where it restricts your breathing. If you look at the video
impassionately, it was a seat belt or takedown maneuver.
One arm was under the gentleman`s underarm, and the other over the shoulder
coming down, then bringing him down to the ground as well. Remember,
you`re shown a police officer bringing down a large man to the ground.
And when he could release that seat belt maneuver, he did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: See. That`s not a chokehold. That`s not what you saw. It`s a
seat belt maneuver. You know how your seat belt wraps your neck really
tightly the way it`s supposed to so that you can`t breathe.
That`s all that happened to Eric Garner -- the classic textbook seat belt
That`s what the New York City Police Union leader did today. He stood in
front of the microphone and rewrote what the medical examiner was a
chokehold to a seat belt maneuver.
That`s why his union pays him. Because he`s willing to do that. He`s
willing to stand up there and say anything to defend the indefensible
But as is customary for police union leaders, Patrick Lynch was not content
to defend his officer in trouble. He needed someone to attack.
Since his police officer was not to blame for anything, someone had to be
blame for New York City`s reaction and the world`s reaction to watching
Eric Garner`s life snuffed out on video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNCH: What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference is
that they were thrown under the bus, that they were out there doing a
difficult job in the middle of the night, protecting the rights of those --
the protests, protecting our sons and daughters.
And the mayor was behind microphones like this, throwing them under the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Patrick Lynch was referring to the most personal aspect of
Mayor de Blasio`s comments yesterday. The mayor is, of course, married to
an African-American woman, who has a biracial son named Dante who President
Obama says reminds him of himself when he was a teenager.
Here is what the mayor said that so horrified the head of the police union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: Chirlane and I have had to talk to
Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. Good young man, law-
abiding young man who never would think to do anything wrong.
And yet, because our history still hangs over us, the dangers he may face,
we`ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for
decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the
police officers who are there to protect him.
And that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first,
that police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same
time, there`s a history we have to overcome because, for so many of our
young people, there`s a fear.
And for so many of our families, there`s a fear. So, I`ve had to worry
over the years. Chirlane has had to worry. Was Dante safe each night.
There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night
-- "Is my child safe?" And not just from some of the painful realities,
crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods.
But are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their
protectors. That`s the reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: For the police union leader who can describe the deadly
chokehold we`ve all seen as a harmless seat belt maneuver, there is no such
thing as reality.
O`DONNELL: Protests continuing tonight, not just in New York City but
around the country. This video is from Times Square at 42nd Street and 7th
Things seem to remain calm there at this moment. We will be right back
O`DONNELL: In "The New York Times" today, Paul Butler, former federal
prosecutor, wrote this about the recent grand jury decisions not to indict
police officers for killing unarmed black men --
"Blame the prosecutors, not the grand jurors. There is one reason that
Daniel Pantaleo is not being charged in the death of Eric Garner. It`s
because District Attorney Dan Donovan of Staten Island did not want him to
"Why not? They cynical point of view is that Donovan was playing to his
base. Staten Island is the whitest and most conservative borough in New
York. It`s also home to many cops."
"Maybe Donovan figured that he would take heat however the grand jury came
out. But the people who would be protesting in the street in the event of
no indictment did not include most of his electorate."
"But there is a more benign explanation. Maybe Donovan just appreciates
that cops have one of the most difficult jobs in the world. And so, he
cuts them some slack. It`s a very human reaction."
Joining me now for their Perspectives are Caleb Mason, former federal
prosecutor and a law professor. And Norm Stamp, a former chief of the
Seattle Police Department.
Norm Stamper, your perspective on this relationship between police and
prosecutors in situations like this.
NORM STAMPER, FORMER SEATTLE POLICE CHIEF: It`s a difficult relationship.
It is one that is flawed with contradiction in all manner of politics.
Police officers and prosecutors must work effectively together to help
prepare and prosecute cases where you have criminal defendants.
Prosecutor, of course, making a decision whether or not you have a criminal
defendant in the first place.
But when it comes to an in custody death, when it comes to a police officer
taking the life of another, these two fashions that have to work together
day by day by day may, in fact, find themselves on opposite ends of the
And I think that argues for a major structural change in our criminal
O`DONNELL: I want to read something I wrote over 30 years ago about this
in "The Times." I mentioned this article earlier tonight. I want to get
your reaction to it, Caleb, about what`s changed in the last two decades.
I wrote then -- "An obvious symbiotic relationship exists between
prosecutors and police. In most of their work, prosecutors rely heavily on
police officers. They are both part of the same law enforcement team and
they usually behave accordingly."
"The secrecy of a grand jury is the ideal cover for a local or federal
prosecutor who wants to avoid bringing homicide charges against police
Caleb, from your perspective, what has changed in that dynamic in the last
CALEB MASON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I`ll tell you one thing that
has changed -- is that every major department in the country, that is
district attorney and police departments as well, have very robust internal
And most big district attorney`s offices including, for example, here in
L.A., have a dedicated unit that is devoted solely to prosecuting police
officers here in L.A. Also judges and lawyers.
So, district attorneys recognize this problem, that the problem that Mr.
Stamper refers to is certainly real.
And the way to get around it is to insulate a group of senior, professional
civil servants, that is the prosecutors and these specialized units, who
have their own investigators, they don`t owe anything to the police
department, they have long-time service, and really can effectively
prosecute these cases.
But the problem that he refers to is real. And I think, to some degree,
I think the problem is much worse, much harder to solve in excessive force
cases than it is in other forms of corruption. As you know -- you know,
police officers are also prosecuted for taking bribes or dealing drugs or
In those cases, it`s very easy to see that a crime has been committed. The
difficulty in excessive force cases is that the police officer is doing his
or her job which, in many cases, is precisely to use force.
But they may have gone too far. Those are very, very difficult issues.
And, yes, I don`t think there`s going to be an easy solution to this.
But the creation of a dedicated unit that exists solely to prosecute police
officers is the one that many large district attorney`s offices have found
to work as well.
O`DONNELL: Norm Stamper, I want to get your view as a former police chief.
Of what you`ve seen on that videotape in the arrest and death of Eric
Garner, what do you think, in training, off of that videotape, should be
pointed out that could be done differently.
STAMPER: Well, let me offer, Lawrence, just a very quick view that I don`t
think the answer is training. Training is essential. Indeed, it`s
But I don`t believe that that is ultimately the answer. What has to happen
is a new structure for American Law Enforcement.
One that will help inculcate different views, different values and,
ultimately, different behavior. My personal belief is that we have too
many police officers, white police officers, who are afraid of young, black
men and, as a consequence, behave accordingly.
Now, they don`t express that fear because that`s essentially a socially
unacceptable emotion in the police culture. But confident police officers,
those who are well-trained, who are mature, who have confidence do not jump
on an individual under the circumstances that I saw in the Garner case.
O`DONNELL: We`re going to have to stop it there. And, Norm Stamper, we`re
going to have to continue this conversation another night.
Caleb Mason and Norm Stamper, thank you both very much.
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Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL