NEW YORK — Gwen Carr and Constance Malcolm walked slowly toward the podium, about to speak of the tragedies that brought them together yet again. But when their eyes met the cameras, their blank expressions said it all.
They are mothers of men killed by the police. They have dedicated themselves to reform what they describe as a system that will not provide justice for their sons.
At a press conference Wednesday outside the headquarters of the largest police department in the country, both women expressed outrage over the New York Police Department continuing to give raises to officers involved in their children’s killings.
The officer in question, Daniel Pantaleo, applied a chokehold while arresting Carr’s son, Eric Garner, in 2014. Garner was unarmed and nonviolent, and his repeated cries that he could not breathe were captured on the now infamous video, sparking protests here and nationwide.
Although a medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo — or any of the other NYPD officers involved in Garner’s death. A federal civil rights investigation into Garner’s death remains ongoing.
The NYPD stripped Pantaleo of his badge and gun and demoted him to a desk job. On Monday, however, Politico reported that Pantaleo made nearly $120,000 this fiscal year after receiving overtime pay and “unspecified pay,” which could be retroactive pay or bonuses.
In July, Ramsey Orta, the man who shot the video of Garner’s killing by the police, agreed to a plea deal to serve four years for a mix of weapons and drug charges. Orta has said that he has been the target of a harassment campaign by the NYPD after the notoriety his video earned.
The NYPD did not respond to a request to comment in time for the deadline of this story.
Standing in front of the NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza Wednesday, Carr said that the people who are sworn to uphold the law should be judged and governed by that same law.
“I don’t care whether you wear blue jeans, a blue suit or a blue uniform,” Carr said. “You are supposed to protect and serve, and when you don’t do that, you should pay for the crime that you’ve done.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, criticized what he characterized as the continued preferential treatment of police officers involved in killings of unarmed black men, citing the approximate $40,000 sum of Pantaleo’s extra pay.
“That type of treatment should shock the conscience of every decent New Yorker,” he said. “It is unreasonable. It is unacceptable. It is unconscionable.”
This will tarnish the reputation of departing police commissioner Bill Bratton and must be remedied immediately by incoming commissioner James O’Neill, Jeffries said. O’Neill, who takes over Friday, has already announced an internal investigation into how the NYPD pays overtime to officers facing disciplinary action.
Kirsten John Foy, the northeast regional director of the civil rights organization National Action Network, said this may be the last chance for accountability in Garner’s case. Garner would have turned 46 today.
“We want to make sure they understand that we haven’t forgotten where the buck stops,” Foy said. “This is the case that the Justice Department really has to show improvement on.”
Malcolm’s son Ramarley Graham was shot in the bathroom of Malcolm’s Bronx home by NYPD officer Richard Haste. More than four years later, Haste has been given desk duty and subsequent overtime pay increases, Malcolm said.
"My son has been dead for 4½ years, and still no answer," she said. "Richard Haste made over $31,000 in pay raise. If that’s not crazy I don’t know what is. I don’t even know what to say, it’s just so frustrat[ing]. It’s like every time you think you’re going forward you just get knocked off your feet again and go right back to where you started from.”
Malcolm then turned her frustration toward New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. She has pleaded with the mayor’s office to release the findings of the departmental review of Haste’s actions. Under state law, records of such investigations must remain confidential, and de Blasio has stood by that law.
"The government isn’t doing nothing, the lawmakers are not doing anything, the court is not doing anything,” said a visibly exasperated Malcolm. “They keep letting these officers go. Why? Why? Why are you protecting these officers?"