USA Today is reporting that officer Daniel Pantaleo, who a grand jury declined to indict in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, has had problems before. The New York City officer has been sued on three previous occasions for civil rights violations against black defendants he has arrested.
According to the USA Today story, Pantaleo was accusing of conducting “humiliating and unlawful strip searches in public view” by two suspects he and other officers arrested on drug charges in 2012. The suit, filed by Darren Collins and Tommy Rice, alleges that Pantaleo and other officers “pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence.”
Staten Island Live says that the city settled the suit in 2013 for a sum of $30,000. Charges against Collins and Rice were ultimately dropped.
In the second case, 22 year old Staten Island resident Kenneth Collins filed a lawsuit saying that Pantaleo and other officers violated his civil rights during a marijuana arrest in February 2012. That suit, filed in November, says that Collins was arrested falsely, and that he was “subjected to a degrading search of his private parts and genitals by the defendants.”
A third case involves yet another marijuana arrest, also from February, 2012. Staten Island Live says that Rylawn Walker filed suit last February, saying that Pantaleo arrested him even though he was “committing no crime at that time and was not acting in a suspicious manner.” Charges against Walker were dropped the day after his arrest. His suit claims that Pantaleo “misrepresented facts in the police reports and other documents that the plaintiff had committed offenses when in fact this was not true.”
Is there a problem with Daniel Pantaleo, or with police in general on Staten Island?
Attorney Michael Collihan wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in August. In it, he says,
To put it mildly, many police on Staten Island have been playing fast, loose and violently with the public they seem to have forgotten they are sworn to protect. After litigating about 200 of these civil rights matters in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York since 1977, I have seen no interest by the managers of the New York City Police Department, or anyone employed by the city of New York, in doing anything to stop this.
City attorney Daniel Passeser said that the letter was “designed to fan the flames of anti-police sentiment in the Staten Island community.” He argued that portions of the letter should be removed from the court docket, but he was unsuccessful in his request.
From this history, it appears that there is a problem not just with Daniel Pantaleo, but with police in Staten Island, or maybe the entirety of New York City. While Pantaleo was a defendant in all three of these suits, he is not the only officer named in two of them. Whatever the solution is, NYC officials need to find it, before the city has to deal with another case such as that of Eric Garner.
Image via YouTube screen grab.