Bernie Kerik reacts to grand jury decision on Garner case

Former NYPD commissioner weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," December 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, minutes away from hearing from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

With us now, former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik on what he wants to hear out of the mayor.

What do you say, sir?

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER INTERIM MINISTER OF INTERIOR IN IRAQ: Well, I think he has to talk to the community.

He has to, you know, explain what happened, maybe why the decision was made that was made by the grand jury. But, most importantly, that if we're going to have protests in Staten Island or around the city, that they be peaceful. People have a right to protest. They have a right to peacefully protest.

They do not have a right to commit arson, robbery, violent assaults, and burglaries, and all the other stuff that we have seen over the last several weeks. So, hopefully, that's the mayor's message and -- and, you know, his leadership carries the city through this event.

CAVUTO: You know, Bernie, you and I were chatting about this last week. But I -- I try very hard to give the Ferguson officials the benefit the doubt.

I think that they held back and maybe held their punches last week, for fear that they would look like they would be agitating crowds and making an already tense situation worse. We now know in retrospect that they more than held back and they allowed stores to be looted and burned down and what have you.

But play it this way, then. Knowing what happened in Ferguson last week, is there a risk that New York City police can overreact, or might -- might be because of that maybe get trigger-happy? And how do they avoid that?

KERIK: Well, honestly, Neil, I don't think that would be the case.

And here is why. Keep in mind that we deal with protests in New York City every single day.

CAVUTO: That's true.

KERIK: Every single day, there are units within the NYPD that deal with protests up around the United Nations, all over the city.

But hundreds, if not thousands of people all over the city every day protest. And the NYPD deals with that. And nobody ever knows. They're very, very good at their job. We also have more resources than probably the entire state of Missouri when it comes to law enforcement officers just in the NYPD alone.

So we have the resources. We have the experience. We have the training. And, hopefully, it doesn't come to that. Hopefully, the protests are peaceful. People have a right to express their opinion, voice their opinion. Let them do so. But if it gets violent and gets out of hand, those people have to be held accountable.

CAVUTO: All right, Bernie, I just want to clarify the video that a lot of folks are seeing at home, I believe, from last week, Pam, right, during the Ferguson protests, but in New York City.

Bernie, you know, I remember when I had the pleasure of chatting with you - - not the pleasure. It was somber times, to put it mildly, after 9/11. You put high priority, as did Mayor Giuliani at the time, not only keeping the peace, but showing New Yorkers trying to get back to their everyday lives.

A lot easier said than done. Now -- now, many have already questioned why local law enforcement have gone ahead with plans to have a Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center. I don't see a problem with that. I think that that should go on and be continued. But I guess the fear would be that it would become a needlessly agitated night.

Do you agree with that? What are your thoughts?

KERIK: I think we have to carry on.

You know, the system -- this process has taken place. It is our Constitution. It's the laws we live by. Get over it. Understand that it happens. Our system is not perfect by no means. You and I have talked about that.

But the bottom line is, the grand jury made a decision. We have to live by that. We have to move on. We can't stop living otherwise. We can't stop the tree lighting. We can't stop the events that will happen from now throughout the Christmas season.

We shouldn't change our lives because some people are irritated or agitated by a process that is our law. They have the right to peacefully protest. Let them go protest, but they cannot and -- or should not hamper with other things that go on in the city. And if they do to the point that it get outs of control, they should be held accountable.

CAVUTO: Now, what do you do? This is earlier protests today, I believe, in Staten Island. I could be wrong, but they are earlier protests in light of the decision.

But what do you do? Last week, I remember, when I was coming on late after covering the protests in Ferguson for FOX Business Network, and then we were chatting, there was just spontaneous demonstrating in New York. And of course that was the night that police Commissioner Bratton was doused with red paint just to show that law authorities everywhere had blood on their hands.

I think that was the message of that lunacy. But now the people are going to gather tonight. And as a top law enforcement official yourself, where do you draw a line between responding to something like that and someone who might, you know, God forbid, try to set fire to a building or worse?

KERIK: Well, once they cross the line -- there's a line, Neil.

It's a peaceful protest. They're not obstructing vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic.


CAVUTO: But you're throwing something at someone. You're throwing paint at someone or a bottle, anything like that, then it changes, right?

KERIK: Neil, that's -- then it changes.

CAVUTO: Got you.

KERIK: That's a violation of the law. That's a violation. Once they violate the law, then they have to be taken into custody. They have to be held accountable for their action.

And keep in mind, Eric Garner and Michael Brown would be alive today had they not resisted arrest. That is the bottom line. And I think people have to realize that.

CAVUTO: Tree lighting goes OK tonight, assuming it does, traffic notwithstanding, people don't get too agitated tonight, some demonstrations and the like, but nothing violent, do you think that would indicate either that New Yorkers who are used to this can move on from this, or is something more powerful going on?

KERIK: You know what, Neil? I think New Yorkers, I think the entire country is going get through this.


KERIK: But I would call on all those civil rights leaders...

CAVUTO: All right, Bernie, I don't want to interrupt you.

President Obama is responding to these developments. He's meeting with the business conference. Let's listen in.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.

And I say that as somebody who believes that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job, that every man or woman in uniform are putting their lives at risk to protect us, that they have the right to come home, just like we do from our jobs, that there's real crime out there that they have got to tackle day in and day out, but that they're only going to be able to do their job effectively if everybody has confidence in the system.

And right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions, but, in some cases, that's a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem.

This is an American problem. When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem. And it's my job as president to help solve it.


OBAMA: Now, when I visited the Crow Nation in Montana, I was a candidate for this office.

And I made it a point to meet with tribal leaders on the campaign trail as often as I could, because I wanted to make sure our country did better by our first Americans. Talk was cheap, and there had been too many promises that hadn't been kept.

And I tried to make sure that I didn't overpromise. I tried to make clear to leaders that I met with that I wasn't going to be able single-handedly to reverse hundreds of years of history. But what I could do is listen and learn and partner with you.

CAVUTO: All right.

We're still monitoring the president's remarks on this. He was making a brief reference to the New York grand jury situation today and no indictment for this officer who was involved in the chokehold that ultimately killed a man. That was caught on a number of videotapes, phone tapes.

We're told the grand jury had access to at least three different such tapes we have seen, the one famous one. This is the scene in Staten Island. This is where it all went down.

But the president made a comment.

I think, Bernie Kerik, if you're still with me, if you will respond to this. The president kind of telegraphing his thoughts. "We do not confidence that folks are being treated fairly."

What did you make of that?

KERIK: Honestly, I'm not sure, Neil.

I don't think he could be talking about either one of these incidents. If he has something else in mind, if there's something else that he's talking about, maybe -- maybe there's something else.

In these two cases, it's not -- in my opinion, it has nothing to do with whether they were treated fairly or not. In both cases, these men resisted arrest. In one case, the officer was violently assaulted. The suspect attempted to take his weapon. He resisted arrest.

In the other case, the -- Garner outweighed the officer by probably 150 pounds. In both of these incidents, they resisted arrest. And I have said this before and I will say it again now. I'm confident that had they not resisted arrest and were they compliant, if they surrendered under the arrest, they would be alive today.

And it's unfortunate. It's tragic that this happened. But I don't think that is what -- that can't be what the president is talking about.

CAVUTO: No. And I would say -- I think, collectively, he's talking about there are many folks who feel this way. We do not have confidence or they do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly.

But that does seem to be all but saying that, in this case, in other cases, that is -- that has certainly happened. Who knows. But whether it calms people down or agitates them, hard to say.

But, Bernie, thank you very, very much, Bernie Kerik, the city's former top lawman.

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