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After Officer's Firing, Wary Members of NYPD Say No One Has Their Backs

For many members of the force, the decision to fire the officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death signaled a shift in the rules of engagement.

By Michael Wilson and Joseph Goldstein

The video of the final moments in the life of Eric Garner and his cries for help — “I can’t breathe” — ignited swift outrage, launching a campaign against aggressive policing and fueling the Black Lives Matter movement.

Five years later, the firing on Monday of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer whose chokehold led to Mr. Garner’s death, brought its own measure of scorn from the opposite end of the political spectrum, this time from incensed police unions.

On Monday, union leaders loudly accused the mayor and police commissioner of undercutting their ability to enforce laws in an effort to appease “anti-police extremists” and urged officers to call in their supervisors before making an arrest.

But in the broad middle bands of the Police Department, within the precinct houses and detective squads of the city’s five boroughs, reaction to the firing of Officer Pantaleo was more complex, defying the outdated image of the police marching in lock step in support of one of their own.

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