UN Experts Urge Review of US Police Practices (Video: Day 3 of NYC Protests)

Protesters gather in Manhattan as thousands take to the streets of New York demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, Dec. 5, 2014. (Getty Images)

VOA News

December 05, 2014

United Nations human rights experts are calling for a review of policing in the United States, after two separate cases in which white police officers were not charged for killing unarmed black men.

The U.N. special rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, said in a statement Friday that the two grand jury decisions “leave many with legitimate concerns relating to a pattern of impunity when the victims of excessive use of force come from African-American or other minority communities.”

The cases have sparked nationwide protests.

Demonstrations against police violence continued Friday night in several cities, including New York, Chicago, and Washington.

In Chicago, protesters chanted “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that Eric Garner shouted when he was placed in a chokehold by a New York police officer as he was resisting arrest in July. Garner later died and a grand jury decided this week not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, for his death.

Myriad incidents

In the most widely-publicized incident causing public outrage, Darren Wilson, a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an 18-year-old named Michael Brown during a street confrontation in August.

Also Friday, prosecutors in New York City say they will consider charges against another officer for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in November in a public housing stairwell.

In the most widely-publicized incident, Darren Wilson, a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an 18-year-old named Michael Brown during a street confrontation in August.

A so-called “journey for justice,” inspired by Brown’s death and organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, reached its final destination Friday. The seven-day march went from Ferguson to the state capital, Jefferson City.

The NAACP said the march’s purpose was “to call for new leadership of the Ferguson police department” and “new reforms of police practice and culture” across the country.

New York

The latest case causing public outrage is that of Eric Garner, who died in July after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold. A grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, for Garner’s death.

A cell phone video that went viral showed Pantaleo holding his arm around Garner’s neck and wrestling him to the ground following an argument.

Garner, suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes, was overweight and suffered from asthma. He repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe!” and complained of past mistreatment by the police.

The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide as a result of the chokehold. The New York City Police Department banned the practice in 1993.

Also in New York City, the district attorney in Brooklyn plans to convene a grand jury to consider charges against a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in a public housing stairwell. The officer, Peter Liang, was new to the police force and on patrol when he killed Akai Gurley on November 20.

New York says it will retrain its 20,000 police officers in how to handle suspects. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday it is essential police treat people of all races equally.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is conducting federal civil rights investigations into the deaths of both Brown and Garner.

Holder spoke in Cleveland, Ohio, where a police officer who reportedly had a poor performance record, gunned down a 12-year-old black boy in a public park as he was waving what turned out to be a toy pistol.



Related:
New York to Retrain Police in Wake of Chokehold Death Case (VOA News)
Protesters flood New York City in second night of demonstrations (NY Daily News)
New Inquiry Needed on Eric Garner’s Death (NYT)

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