Eric Garner

The NYPD Officer Fired for Choking Eric Garner Is Suing To Get His Job Back

Pantaleo's lawyer says it’s “arbitrary and capricious” to fire a cop for choking a guy over black market cigarettes.


The New York Police Department officer fired in August for the chokehold that led to the death of Eric Garner is now suing to get his job back.

Former NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was captured on video five years ago confronting Garner on Staten Island. Pantaleo and his fellow officers approached Garner, who they suspected of selling "loosies," or individual, untaxed cigarettes. Garner was uncooperative when Pantaleo tried to arrest and handcuff him, and in the ensuing struggle, officers pulled Garner to the ground, and Pantaleo put him in a chokehold. Garner said multiple times "I can't breathe" before losing consciousness. After being transported to a hospital, he was pronounced dead.

The New York Office of Chief Medical Examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, a result of the compression of his neck and chest in the confrontation. The district attorney's office for Richmond County turned to a grand jury for possible charges against Pantaleo, but the grand jury declined to indict him.

New York waited to see if the Department of Justice wanted to file federal civil rights charges against Pantaleo. Ultimately, the Justice Department declined to act. Earlier this year Pantaleo, finally faced an administrative trial to determine what discipline, if any, he should face as a cop. The administrative judge found Pantaleo guilty in August of "recklessly causing physical injury" and recommended Pantaleo's dismissal. NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill agreed with the recommendation and terminated him.

But even after five years and outrage from people across the political spectrum, nearly all whom saw Garner's death as a wholly unnecessary overreaction by law enforcement, the saga is not over. Pantaleo has hired attorney Stuart London of Worth, Longworth, and London, a Manhattan firm specializing in representing police officers, and is now suing to get his job back.

I contacted London's office to request a copy of the lawsuit, but have not yet received a response. According to the New York Post, the lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan civil court on Wednesday, argues that Pantaleo's firing was "arbitrary and capricious." London told the Post that he thinks the recommendation to fire Pantaleo was "reckless." Was that decision as reckless as Pantaleo's decision to choke a man for selling loose cigarettes?

It's hard to imagine the NYPD putting Pantaleo back on patrol even if they were forced to rehire him. Every arrest or physical altercation between Pantaleo and any suspect is another lawsuit waiting to happen, and New York spent $230 million last year settling police lawsuits.

But getting back on a patrol route might not be the point of the lawsuit. The New York Post notes that the circumstances of Pantaleo's firing mean he won't get a full pension, but he will be able to recoup any money he paid into the fund during his time there. Getting put back on the force, even in a desk job, would put him back on track for a publicly-funded retirement plan were he to eventually retire on his own terms. The Post notes Pantaleo was making $85,292 a year as a cop before getting fired.

The citizens of New York have no obligation to bankroll officers who have abused their power. Pantaleo had his chance to be a good cop and retire on the taxpayer dime.

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  1. Why are so many low-quality people hired as law enforcement personnel?

    1. High-quality people tend to gravitate to jobs where their quality is rewarded commensurately. People who decide to become cops almost certainly are doing so because they desire the benefits, or the power, and they’re not clever enough to earn that sort of money or power in the free market.

      1. Yes, partly it is the type of people that are attracted to be cops. But there are also many good people that become cops and then turn into bad people. It’s the training and the culture of police departments that is to blame as well.

        1. If they were good they’d stay that way. Or they wouldn’t want to hang around with douchebags in the first place.

      2. Cops are paid rather well.

    2. You ask that but then argue for more power to the state so they can send more of these assholes out to attack the public? I don’t get it.

    3. They’re ones willing to violate the NAP.

    4. “”Why are so many low-quality people hired as law enforcement personnel?””

      I don’t know. Ask your betters. They are hiring them.

  2. Of course Daniel Pantaleo wants to be on the Force again.

    He got away with murder.

  3. Here we go again. Here’s my chance to be the asshole contrarian. It’s possible his lawyer has a point– it might in fact be “arbitrary and capricious” when you compare how many cops’ aggressive and even murderous actions are considered within department guidelines and are never fired or even sanctioned.

    It’s going to seem incredibly arbitrary to the cop being fired for doing the exact same thing 10,000 officers did before him.

    1. I agree. Let’s fire all 10,000!

    2. When considered in the context of the media shitstorm that surrounded the incident, the firing is neither arbitrary nor capricious. Of course, there are undoubtedly dozens, probably hundreds of similar incidents of unarmed people engaged in peaceful behavior being murdered by police. But Pantaleo was fired because his behavior became national news.

      1. But Pantaleo was fired because his behavior became national news.

        Right, which is gonna feel awfully arbitrary to the defense. It’s a bit like the James Damore situation. A sleepy little internal memo that floated around for 9 months that no one thought was controversial got leaked, went viral on twitter, the media became outraged and Google felt it had to act. So they fired him on bullshit grounds which were entirely arbitrary.

        I’m not comparing the cop to Damore, but when you set a long precedent that says “activity A is ok” and then suddenly fire someone for Activity A merely because there was a press firestorm… arbitrary definitely comes to mind.

        I’m essentially saying that cities are digging their own grave with this shit. When you let 100 go, it gets tough to suddenly hold the line at 101.

        1. “Responsible for public scandal” might be a cowardly decision, but seeing as it’s entirely predictable, it’s not arbitrary or capricious at all.

          And that’s aside from the fact that, on the merits, you can argue the guy should have been fired.

          1. As could hundreds or thousands of others before him. Thus the arbitrary and capricious.

    3. He got fired for killing a black man. Cops never get fired for killing a black man. This is capricious and arbitrary.

    4. Well reverse that to the people they arrest. Millions of us violate the law everyday but don’t face repercussions. Some will get caught. Just like he got caught on camera and now has to face the repercussions. So I don’t think it is anymore “arbitrary and capricious” then what civilians face everyday, if anything less so for the cops.

    5. Wait a second – isn’t using a choke hold against NYPD policy? If that’s the case, how was his firing arbitrary in any way?

      1. That’s not a choke hold. Who are you going to believe, the PBA and police or your lying eyes?

  4. “Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frowned upon, you know, ‘cause I’ve worked on a lot of police forces and I tell you cops do that all the time.”

    1. Costanza would have been a great cop, being that he was too lazy to actually do anything.

  5. Hizzoner DeBlasio should immediately rehire him and send him to foot patrol in Harlem. He got away with manslaughter. Perhaps justice would prevail.

  6. Was cop ever before convicted for chocking a black man to death for selling loosies on the streets of New York?
    What ever happened to qualified immunity?

  7. It doesn’t seem Reason ever questioned the concept of forcing someone to hire someone

    1. They have, plenty of times.

  8. “Pantaleo’s lawyer says it’s “arbitrary and capricious” to fire a cop for choking a guy over black market cigarettes.

    Almost as capricious as choking a guy to death over black market cigarettes.

  9. Pantaleo had his chance to be a good cop and retire on the taxpayer dime.

    The mayor’s priorities and cop culture may have told Pantaleo that choking a guy over loosies was being a good cop.

  10. That’s all well and good, but what does the union think?

  11. Guy wants his cop job back after choking someone to death?


    1. too soon.

  12. Cop misses being able to choke innocent citizens to death. I’m not surprised.

  13. Oh. There’s a shocker.

  14. probly should let the guy who *wants* to be a cop in New York City be a cop in New York City

  15. Jesus Christ get the fucking story right! The cops were there about a fight Garner had already broken up. They then tried to falsely arrest him for selling cigarettes which he was NOT doing. Every cop there should be fired.

  16. Please tell me no one is surprised by this.

    They usually don’t have to file an actual lawsuit. Usually an arbitrator orders them rehired with full back pay.

  17. Where do all these people who sue each other come from?
    Sioux City?

  18. Wonder if Garner’s Family have any plans to sue Pantaleo Pantaleo?

    1. They took a $5.9 million dollar settlement in the case. They had been seeking $75 million from the city and officers.

  19. You kill one guy and everyone acts like you killed someone.

  20. Pantaleo’s lawyer says it’s “arbitrary and capricious” to fire a cop for choking a guy TO DEATH over black market cigarettes.


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