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Poll: Officer should have been charged in Eric Garner case

This undated family photo provided by the National

This undated family photo provided by the National Action Network on Saturday, July 19, 2014, shows Eric Garner, who was confronted by police trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, authorities said. Photo Credit: National Action Network

ALBANY -- Most New Yorkers believe a New York City police officer should have been charged in the apparent choking death of Eric Garner on Staten Island last summer, according to a new poll.

The Siena College Research Institute poll released Friday found that 55 percent of those polled statewide believed the Staten Island grand jury was wrong earlier this month to make no charge in the death of Garner, who is African-American, in July.

Half of those polled also said the federal government should bring charges in the Garner case and 52 percent said racial minorities are treated unfairly by the criminal justice system.

While 48 percent of white New Yorkers felt the grand jury should have brought charges, 80 percent of African-Americans said the white police officer should have been indicted. Similarly, while 44 percent of white residents don't believe the federal government should bring civil rights charges against the police officer, 77 percent of African-Americans do.

The poll also found that 58 percent support state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's proposal to investigate future fatal confrontations with police.

Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin said no charges were warranted against the police officer. Sixty-five percent of Republicans believe minorities are treated fairly by police, while 67 percent of Democrats say minorities are not treated fairly.

Police had stopped Garner on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes and restrained him in a confrontation caught on video by a bystander. Garner's words, "I can't breathe!" have become a rallying cry in protests nationwide seeking better relations between police and African-Americans.

The poll also found 63 percent oppose a proposal in which state lawmakers would raise their $79,500 base salary.

The poll questioned 639 registered voters Dec. 11-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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