A New York City agency that investigates police misconduct forced an employee to resign this week after the worker leaked information about the officer who killed Eric Garner with a banned chokehold.
The unidentified employee of the Civilian Complaint Review Board handed over grievance documents filed against Daniel Pantaleo, revealing that the officer had four substantiated complaints on record before his fatal encounter with Garner in 2014, but received next to no punishment. The complaints were published Tuesday by ThinkProgress.
The New York Police Department immediately decried the leak and sought a culprit. Top brass cited a 40-year-old law that allows it to keep disciplinary records under wraps ― and that the department suddenly started relying on last year. The employee resigned Thursday rather than get fired, according to the New York Daily News. The employee had never worked on investigations into Pantaleo’s wrongdoing.
The paperwork (embedded below) shows that Pantaleo faced at least seven complaints containing 14 allegations over his career. The review board had recommended disciplinary action against him in the years prior to the Garner case. But Pantaleo’s worst punishments involved extra training and the loss of two vacation days.
According to the records, the agency had sufficient evidence of an abusive vehicle stop and search by Pantaleo in 2011, which resulted in a two-part complaint. The agency also substantiated allegations about an abusive stop and frisk in 2012, which resulted in another two-part complaint that was reported by DNAinfo in April 2016.
Of course, Pantaleo’s biggest disciplinary windfall came after he put Garner in a fatal chokehold in Staten Island, as Garner was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. The chokehold had been banned by the NYPD, but a grand jury chose not to indict him. Pantaleo was relegated to desk duty after the investigation.
The employee who leaked Pantaleo’s files may not get off that easy. Patrick Lynch, union president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, called for an investigation and, “if necessary,” prosecution in the case, the Daily News reports.
It’s unclear if charges will be filed, but NYPD officials argued the leak was illegal under New York state law 50-A, which makes disciplinary reports against officers and other public employees confidential.
Critics of the department’s storied history of transparency failures quickly pointed out the hypocrisy in New York’s justice system.
“They’re going to fire a CCRB leaker before they will fire a man who killed an unarmed man on duty as a police officer,” Cynthia Conti-Cook, a lawyer for New York’s Legal Aid Society, told The New York Times. “It’s pretty troubling.”
The NYPD has long resisted releasing information on its officers and, more generally, being transparent with the public. It has a history of denying access to reporters and has yet to fulfill a 2013 court order demanding that it start a body camera pilot program within the ranks.
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