Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they wouldn’t bring charges against the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner.
The Department of Justice made the announcement almost five years to the day that Officer Daniel Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold to arrest Garner for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street, setting of a chain of events that led Garner to being pronounced dead at a hospital shortly afterward.
More than any other single event, Garner’s death helped end the widespread use of the controversial policing strategy known as “Stop and Frisk.” With the technique, officers could temporarily detain and search anyone they reasonably suspected of having a weapon, the police claimed, in order to reduce gun violence.
As the nation’s largest police force moved away from the widespread use of Stop and Frisk, it began to change how its officers approached the communities where they work. Under new commissioner James P. O’Neill, the NYPD began to roll out neighborhood policing.
The idea is simple: Police spend time in the neighborhoods they work in, developing relationships with locals rather than spending most of their time responding to calls from headquarters. While the program is easy to explain, changing the way 36,000 NYPD officers do their jobs, and working to heal old wounds from decades of harsher tactics, has been the single largest challenged faced by the department.
Michael Devonish, a black police officer of NYPD, says that becoming an officer was a "secretive" process: [People] feel that when you join a department like this that you aren't staying true to your culture and your values. But I specifically joined to make a difference."
VICE News rode along with NYPD police officers in Brooklyn and talked with residents about what has and hasn't changed.
This segment originally aired July 16, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.