If a miscarriage of justice over a police officer choking Eric Garner to death after he isn't properly deferential when being approached over suspicion of the possibility of selling untaxed cigararettes, in which Garner's famous last words, over and over, were "I can't breathe," results in the possibility of public protests, what will the New York Police Department do?
"If they engage in criminal activity, such as vandalism—actual crime—they will be arrested, quite simply," he said. "But we have the ability to have a level of tolerance—breathing room, if you will," Bratton said.
Now, there is no way this was a deliberate reference to Garner's final words as a cop killed him—it just couldn't be, no one's that big a jerk.
But this unfortunate choice of words under the circumstances points up something Bratton needs to inculcate in his officers down the line: Potentially deadly force might be justified in preventing harm to citizens' lives or property.
It should not be a mere tool of enforcing obediance in a situation that involves none of those things. Police not only should have "breathing room" to not enforce the law to the letter and with utmost force—they should understand that it is never appropriate to do so when it involves potentially deadly force over matters not related to protecting lives or property.
It's nice that speaking colloquially, even Bratton understands the difference between "actual crime" and just not obeying officers commands.
Especially in the unfortunate world we live in when there are laws the police are expected to enforce over selling cigarettes without giving the government a cut.
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