*(Via BusinessInsider) – The parallels between Eric Garner’s senseless killing by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on a Staten Island sidewalk in the summer of 2014 and Daunte Wright’s recent death are striking.
Both were stopped for victimless crimes, and both died because police officers unnecessarily escalated situations in which they weren’t in danger.
And both present solid cases for two controversial yet “common sense” solutions.
First, most traffic stops conducted by police are unnecessary and should be done away with.
And most crimes should be treated as the minor policy violations they are, not grave offenses against the state or “the people.”
Perhaps it’s time we stopped pulling people over for no good reason, and stopped making everything a criminal offense.
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Two police killings caused by the overcriminalization of everything
Eric Garner sold loose cigarettes for a modest profit.
By reselling a legal product to consenting adult purchasers, Garner was technically committing a robbery of state tax revenues on cigarette packs. The victim, according to the government, was the government.
Weeks before Garner’s death, the NYPD ordered a citywide crackdown on “loosie” sales.
That’s how quickly a neighborhood side hustle becomes a crime against the state.
Garner told the cops that afternoon that he’d had enough of their constant hassling of him. The cops could have walked away and found him another time to arrest him for allegedly stealing tax revenue.
But they escalated the situation because their authority had been questioned.
And Garner’s “resistance” was deemed sufficiently threatening that Pantaleo used a banned chokehold to subdue him. Garner died, screaming “I Can’t Breathe” as his last words.
But the interaction wasn’t inevitable. Banning the sale of loosies was a choice made by legislators, deploying police to aggressively enforce this rule was also a choice, giving police deadly weapons and various legal immunities negotiated into their union contracts is also a choice. These choices aren’t immutable truths, and they can be changed.
The traffic stop that led to Daunte Wright’s killing by police earlier this month was triggered by police spotting his car’s expired license plates. Officers later noticed an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, which is illegal in Minnesota.
Once it became clear he would be arrested after the officers discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest, Wright foolishly tried to flee the scene.
This essay/opinion piece by Anthony L. Fisher continues at Business Insider.