The $5.9 million settlement against the officer accused of killing Eric Garner was condemned Monday by of a top police union official for being obscene and politically motivated.
The record-high settlement was charged against Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who allegedly choked Garner, a black man, to death in 2014. Garner was heard shouting that he couldn’t breathe as he was wrestled to the ground. The incident made national headlines and sparked a debate on police using excessive force and institutional racism. At the time Pantaleo caught Garner selling untaxed cigarettes.
The city will be responsible for paying the huge settlement. Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, called it shameful.
“Where is the justice for New York taxpayers?” Mullins told New York Post. “Where is the consistency in the civil system?”
The settlement marks the largest ever charged against a New York police officer for a wrongful death. While Mullins called the decision politically motivated, Comptroller Scott Stringer argued it was justified because of the extraordinary impact the case had on the country.
“We are all familiar with the events that lead to the death of Eric Garner and the extraordinary impact his passing has had on our City and our nation,” Stringer said in a statement. “I believe that we have reached an agreement that acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death while balancing my office’s fiscal responsibility to the City.”
Though Stringer said he couldn’t discuss the details of the settlement, he argued it was fair. The comptroller has the authority to settle any claims against the city. Mullins, however, argued the settlement wasn’t fair and that a jury would have come to a lower amount because they would be considering the facts of the case and not politics or emotion.
“In my view, the city has chosen to abandon its fiscal responsibility to all of its citizens and genuflect to the select few who curry favor with the city government,” Mullins noted. “Mr. Garner’s family should not be rewarded simply because he repeatedly chose to break the law and resist arrest.”
As Time reported back in 2014, the medical examiner ruled the death to be a homicide. Despite this, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo. There is still a federal probe ongoing.