Mark Oppenheimer was surprised to find how the scandal impacted those involved, almost 60 years later.
This week, some New York City police officers will begin wearing body cameras. The NYPD announced the start of the pilot program yesterday — the same day a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a white policeman in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was stopped for selling loose cigarettes.
Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer who now lectures at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, spoke to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the use of body cameras. He also shared his reaction to the grand jury decision and his opinion on the police actions captured on video that led to Garner’s death.
“I saw incompetence, not criminality,” O’Donnell said. “Under the law, the officer’s claim that he had to do what he had to do is given broad leeway. So this is not a surprising result. This is, in some sense, a predictable result. When we send the police out there — and federal agents, like FBI agents that work for the attorney general — they have broad legal power to use force, and lawmakers should explain that. And when we want to consider reforming the criminal justice system, we should consider why the police footprint’s as big as it is, because these risks of bad endings are always present.”