An NYPD sergeant who supervised an officer fired this week for causing the death of Eric Garner will not face a departmental disciplinary trial and officials said all disciplinary actions stemming from the incident have now been concluded.
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Sgt. Kezzy Adonis, however, will be docked 20 vacation days for failure to properly supervise former officer Daniel Pantaleo, who according to a disciplinary judge put Garner in a department-banned chokehold, which contributed to his death.
“This disciplinary case was adjudicated,” NYPD Assistant Commissioner Devora Kaye said in a statement on Wednesday.
Adonis had pleaded guilty to departmental charges and accepted the loss of her vacation days, eliminating the need for a departmental trial, officials said.
She remains a sergeant on full duty, officials said.
Kaye said that at the time of the confrontation with Garner on July 17, 2014 — when he was accused of selling untaxed cigarettes in the city’s Staten Island borough — Adonis was a newly-promoted sergeant, had no prior disciplinary history and had received positive evaluations on her prior and current assignments.
“The Police Commissioner evaluated Sergeant Adonis’s supervision of officers under her command that day, and found that it was lacking in certain areas,” Kaye said in the statement without elaborating. “That analysis concluded by noting that nothing about her actions on that day either caused the use of the banned chokehold or delayed the arrival of medical attention for Mr. Garner.”
The decision came two days after NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill fired Pantaleo, saying it was “an extremely difficult decision.”
“If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me … [but] it’s my responsibility as police commissioner to look out for the city,” O’Neill said.
Pantaleo’s dismissal followed his disciplinary trial in May and June this year. No criminal charges were ever filed in the case.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Judge Rosemarie Maldonado recommended that O’Neill remove Pantaleo from the force after holding a disciplinary hearing in May and June this year.
O’Neill said Pantaleo initially used justifiable force when Garner resisted arrest but erred when he kept Garner in the chokehold once the two men tumbled to the ground.
The incident was captured on video, showing Garner repeatedly crying, “I can’t breathe,” which became a rallying cry at subsequent protests.
The administrative judge found the chokehold contributed to an asthma attack that led to Garner’s death, a consequence that O’Neill said required accountability.
Prior to his termination, Pantaleo, 35, of Staten Island, had been on desk duty while collecting an annual salary of more than $97,000, according to public records.
There was no immediate comment from Garner’s family on the outcome of Adonis’ case, but the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights leader who has supported Garner’s loved ones in their five-year pursuit of justice, said the decision is “too little too late.”
“In fact, the loss of vacation days is akin to no penalty at all,” Sharpton said in a statement. “If the penalty for not doing your job is that you can keep doing your job, it is an injustice to the family of Eric Garner and the residents of New York City.”
He said the Garner family wants “all of the officers involved in Eric’s case to be brought to justice,” including a lieutenant, NYPD Lt. Christopher Bannon, who texted another officer that Garner’s death was “not a big deal.”
“We will continue to press for justice on all avenues,” said Sharpton.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the committee will hold hearings in the fall to “strengthen police-community relations.”
“We must continue to work at every level of government, within our local police departments and on the ground in our communities to ensure positive change,” he said in a statement.
O’Neill’s decision to fire Pantaleo elicited a swift rebuke from Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, who said the commissioner “has chosen politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead.”
Lynch also prompted concerns that there could be a work slowdown by rank-and-file members of the department after he said, “We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job.”
“We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety,” Lynch said.