Yesterday, during a discussion about police and community relations held at City Hall, the Rev. Al Sharpton sharply questioned whether the NYPD's retraining would be enough. "Training is important," Sharpton conceded. "But you don’t need training if a man is saying 11 times “I can’t breathe!” and you still holding him in a grip-lock. You don’t need training, you need to have people that understand the law is what they protect and uphold. They are not above the law."
The roundtable was convened in the wake of Eric Garner's death. Garner was put in a chokehold during an arrest, and while being pinned to the ground, repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." The incident was documented in a distressing video. Later, EMTs responding to the incident didn't seem to be in a hurry to help Garner.
Here are Sharpton's opening remarks:
Capital New York says
Let me be very direct. I think, Mr. Mayor, that you ran and captured the hope of this city because you seemed sensitive to the fact that we were caught in between two serious problems. One was violence in our community and crime. The other was police that had gone over the line - stop-and-frisk and others. And I think that your ability to show some sensitivity is what raised hope and gave you the plurality that you got to become mayor. But now, I think we’ve got to go from that hope to actuality. And people feel that you are not just another politician, but that you the transformational mayor that they look to be. The fact of the matter is, given the data that we are seeing in terms of these Broken Window kind of operations, it’s disproportionate in the black and Latino community. If Dante wasn’t your son, he’d been candidate for a chokehold. And we’ve got to deal with that reality. We’re not talking about training.
I heard the commissioner say race wasn’t involved. We don’t know that. How do we assume before an investigation that a policeman with two civil rights violations didn’t have race involved? So we gon’ prejudge what we want and tell the community to wait on the results? I think it is important that we do the business of transforming the police department without losing one beat in keeping crime and violence down, because we are the worst recipients of that as well.
So, I think many of us are willing to help in a real transformation, but we can’t do it with window dressing. We can’t do it - as you said - with just some proclamations. We’ve got to do it with real engagement. And if that’s what we going to do, then I think that I can speak for NAN and I and say that I will be there. We’ll be the best friends. If we are going to just play spin games, I’ll be the worst enemy because I am tired of seeing people bury their kin. When I stood with Bishop Evan - this is a real man lost his life. We’re not talking now - too many people involved in this act like these families are props for some other agenda. This is real life. And unless we solve it and deal with it and you raise the hopes to be the mayor that could do it -unless we do it under you, I don’t know how we do it. And that’s why we’ve got to deal with the criminal justice issue and we’ve got to deal with the policing issue.
that this puts "de Blasio in the middle" of a "Sharpton-Bratton debate." The Daily News' Mike Lupica accuses de Blasio and Bratton of "deflecting blame":
This wasn’t the politics of reform on Thursday at City Hall, because reform is just a word that politicians like Bill de Blasio and Bill Bratton use when they think they look bad. No, this was the politics of performance art, as de Blasio and Bratton showed up to get lectured by the de facto deputy mayor of the city, the Rev. Al Sharpton.
...Bratton — who continues to act as if this is somebody else’s NYPD and not his very own — was telling everybody that the city has been “deficient” in training its police officers. It makes you wonder why it took the new commissioner seven full months to realize that.
Here's a transcript of the roundtable, plus video below: