NYC police union calls Garner settlement ‘obscene,’ family renews push for criminal charges

Rev. Al Sharpton (C) speaks with the family of Eric Garner during a news conference at the National Action Network in New York July 14, 2015 (Reuters / Brendan McDermid)
A day after agreeing to a $5.9 million settlement with New York City, Eric Garner’s family is calling for federal civil rights charges in the case. Meanwhile, an NYPD union boss blasted the amount of the settlement as “obscene” and politically motivated.

Appearing at a press conference with Reverend Al Sharpton, Garner’s mother, daughter and wife said that the money offered by the city was not justice. They called on the federal government to launch a civil rights probe against the police officer who placed Garner in a chokehold and was ruled culpable in Garner’s death a year ago. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner.

“Eric Garner and the community have not received justice,” Sharpton told reporters. “Money is not justice.”

The settlement is significantly greater than payouts in other high-profile wrongful death cases, such as $3.9 million to the family of Ramarley Graham and $3 million to the family of Amadou Diallo, both of whom were fatally shot by police. Still, it is a fraction of the $75 million Garner’s family had originally sought.

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said the settlement was not a victory. “The victory will come when we get justice. Where is the justice?” she asked.

“We are calling on the Department of Justice and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch to deliver justice for my father,” added Garner’s daughter Erica.

“They treated my husband like an animal, and I think they give animals more respect than humans,” said Esaw Snipes Garner, mother of three of his children.

READ MORE: NYC settles Eric Garner chokehold case for $5.9 million

Garner, 43, was confronted by several NYPD officers on July 17 of last year over allegedly selling loose cigarettes. The African-American father of six told the officers he had done nothing wrong. Video captured by a bystander showed multiple cops taking Garner to the ground while attempting to arrest him, with Officer Daniel Pantaleo placing Garner in a chokehold banned by the department. During the incident, Garner is heard saying, “I can’t breathe” 11 times. Last December, a grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo in Garner’s death.

City officials apparently succeeded in displeasing both Garner’s family and the New York Police Department with the settlement. According to the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, a union representing many NYPD officers, the city chose to “genuflect to the select few who curry favor with the city government.”

“The settlement amount tendered to the Garner family is obscene: it is a stark departure from typical settlements in similar cases and is clearly an attempt by the Mayor’s Office to placate outside political agendas,” SBA president Ed Mullins wrote in the New York Post.

Mullins said that Garner’s family should not be rewarded “simply because he repeatedly chose to break the law and resist arrest,” and called the city’s responsibility in Garner’s death “at best, minimal.”

New York City comptroller Scott Stringer announced the settlement on Monday, citing the “extraordinary impact” the death of the Staten Island man had across the United States. “It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve,” he said.

READ MORE: NY Judge rejects request to release Eric Garner grand jury records

The city did not admit culpability in the case, Stringer noted. The settlement “acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death while balancing my office’s fiscal responsibility to the City,” he said in a statement.

“No sum of money can make this family whole, but hopefully the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today’s settlement,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

If the federal government does pursue civil rights charges, it would have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer had deliberately violated Garner’s rights and targeted him because of his race. Department of Justice officials decided against pursuing civil rights charges in the case of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri that prompted a nationwide wave of protests last summer. The department did issue a scathing report on police practices in Ferguson though, prompting the chief of police and several officials to resign.