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Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton on Sunday slammed cop-turned-killer Derek Chauvin for dealing “unrivaled” damage to the profession through his murder of George Floyd — but cautioned against the defund the police movement, calling more law-enforcement the “essential medicine.”
Speaking to CBS Sunday Morning, Bratton — who twice helmed the NYPD, in addition to stints as top cop in Los Angeles and his hometown of Boston — likened Floyd’s death in Minneapolis to that of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man killed in July 2014 when he was placed in an officer’s chokehold.
Bratton, who was months into his second go-around atop the NYPD at the time of Garner’s death, chalked up the outcome to poor policing tactics on the part of the two cops who busted Garner for peddling loose cigarettes.
“The idea of trying to take him down — just the two of them, and both of them were smaller than Garner; Garner was very, very big — effectively was just a bad tactic, and it ended up in a terrible tragedy,” he said.
But Bratton said that neither Garner nor Floyd deserved to die.
“So often in these struggles — particularly over minor events, such as the sale of loosies — nobody deserves to die at the hands of the police,” he said. “But it happens. It happens a thousand times a year.”
On Memorial Day 2020, Chauvin knelt on the neck of Floyd while trying to arrest him for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis.
Floyd died gasping the same words that Garner did nearly six years prior: “I can’t breathe.”
“Derek Chauvin’s actions as an individual cop … did so much damage to the American police profession,” said Bratton, who has worked in the private sector since 2016. “Unrivaled. Damaged the profession around the world.”
Chauvin was fired after Floyd’s death, criminally charged and ultimately convicted of murder.
Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who placed Garner in a chokehold, was fired in 2019 by Bratton’s successor, James O’Neill, following a lengthy departmental inquiry.
Pantaleo was never charged in the death.
Bratton said that while he supports many of the criminal-justice reform initiatives undertaken since Floyd’s death, he is “frustrated” by movements to defund the police.
“You need to refund the police,” he said, voicing hopes that a federal bill currently being debated would improve the national quality of police work without reducing its quantity.
Among the provisions in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act are requirements that state and local police forces that receive federal funding ensure the use of body cameras and prohibit chokeholds.
“What I’m hoping coming out of this bill in Congress — the George Floyd bill, when it comes out — is that it will effectively force government to spend resources on the essential medicine to fix this thing,” said Bratton. “And police are the essential medicine. That’s the reality.”
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