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Letters: Garner case shows recurring nightmare

A large crowd demonstrates at Foley Square in

A large crowd demonstrates at Foley Square in New York City Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 in the wake of a Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The grand jury of Staten Island allowed a police officer and killer to walk away free, instead of being sent to Riker's Island. Think about it: Eric Garner, a father of six, was attacked by cops, and now he is buried six feet underground. The once-beautiful place called New York City is becoming brutal.

Whenever we pick up a newspaper or search the Web, we find headlines about police aggression against unarmed African-American men.

It sickens me to live in this world, when our president is a man of color. What is going on in the minds of today's police officers? No longer are they here to serve and protect. They are now a threat to citizens. Not even in a court of law could we the voters and taxpayers win.

When will we all come together and let the revolution begin?

Kenneth Beverley, Springfield Gardens

Enough already with white police officers killing -- inadvertently? -- black men. No wonder there are demonstrations and lootings. I do understand the anger. Give the offending officer some kind of punishment to appease the families of the fallen.

Was an apparent chokehold so necessary in subduing Eric Garner? And when he complained he couldn't breathe, why then didn't the officer ease up?

Marie Scalafani, Holbrook

I'm sure I was as surprised as many people to learn that a grand jury had found insufficient evidence to bring any charges against the arresting officerin the death of Eric Garner.

Unlike what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, where there were highly contradictory eyewitness reports, the video of the officers gang tackling and choking Garner was crystal clear.

Further, the forensic evidence as to cause of death was clear. The coroner ruled it a homicide. You can talk all you want about the police wearing body cameras, but if the evidence is going to be ignored, what's the point?

Arthur M. Shatz, Bayside

A simple solution could be adopted by our police departments. More black and female police officers should be assigned to black neighborhoods. Stun guns should be carried instead of guns with bullets. And body cameras might prevent these tragic incidents.

Irma Gurman, Smithtown

When I told my brother, a lawyer, that I was about to start a month of grand jury service in Nassau County, he recited the quote we've all heard: A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.

At the time, I chuckled, but, indeed, he was right. The 23 of us returned the requested indictments almost every time, only once or twice opting for a reduced charge.

But what I noticed was that we had a tendency to accept whatever testimony a police officer gave as unquestioned truth. When I questioned what an officer had told us, my fellow jurors were surprised. Why did I doubt the word of a police officer, they wanted to know.

I think the saying has to be amended: A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich, unless that ham sandwich is a police officer.

Ellen Solow Holzman, Roslyn Heights

If these two police shootings and resulting protests do not make glaringly obvious the need for change, I don't know what will. While people like to demonize the shooter or the person who was shot, this is not productive.

This is one of our nation's recurring nightmares. It should be obvious by now that the problem is systemic, and not just caused by rotten apples on one side of the law or the other.

We are all victims of circumstance, and when you are born into a community where drugs and unlawful activity are the norm, you are essentially cast as a criminal from the onset.

There is a systemic, antiquated issue of imperial white, male bias in the system that we have yet to eradicate. Though we have adopted laws against discriminatory practices and policies, there are still echoes and subtle use of laws to enforce discrimination.

Most glaringly do we see this in the "war on drugs." The laws are often used as mere pretexts for discriminatory enforcement. We have a natural aversion to acknowledging this, but we must look it in the eye and work ceaselessly to eradicate it.

Take a good, hard look at the laws and just what enforcement means both for the officers called to legitimize them on the street, and the people we are casting as criminals as a result. Neither side is getting a fair deal. We need conscious, thoughtful legislation and reform.

Ryan Dougherty, Sayville