Len Levitt is the author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force."
While the medical examiner ruled that an NYPD-banned chokehold was in part responsible for the death of Eric Garner, the office refuses to release the results of its toxicology tests.
"We do not make the test results public," Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the medical examiner, wrote in an email over the weekend. But she did not explain why they would not be made public -- somewhat baffling because the office released partial autopsy findings.
Bolcer said the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner -- who was a diabetic and suffered from heart problems -- died from a chokehold and compression to the chest. Cops tried to detain Garner, 43, in Staten Island last month for selling untaxed cigarettes.
The findings are important because they could reveal whether medications or other substances were in Garner's system when he died. That detail will be central as Staten Island becomes the epicenter in the investigation.
The NYPD has long released toxicology results in cases when people died while in police custody or while resisting arrest. "We always released it in resisting cases," a former top NYPD official said on condition of anonymity, "because it might explain why someone might resist."
Chris Dunn, the associate legal director for the NY Civil Liberties Union, said: "The only reason they release that information is to dirty people up."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who wants a prosecution of Daniel Pantaleo -- the officer who applied the chokehold on Garner -- has said Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan should indict the cop or defer prosecution to federal authorities. It is rare for district attorneys to give up authority to other law enforcement agencies. Donovan, a Republican in a largely white and working-class borough, has said his office is awaiting an official death certificate and the autopsy results.
And it is equally rare for federal authorities to step in before local prosecutions have been undertaken. Despite Sharpton's caterwauling, the feds have declined to prosecute officers in some previous cases.
As minor as the charge against him was and as tragic the outcome was, the cops responded to a complaint. And Garner appears to have resisted arrest, saying: "This ends today."
Those words have become a rallying cry for his supporters.