“Nothing has changed” in the Staten Island neighborhood where Eric Garner died in a police chokehold five years ago, one resident tells the Associated Press. Tompkinsville Park, which police were targeting for patrols when they encountered Garner selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, remains a gathering place for desperate people. “If the police are here, they just move to the other side of the park and do their business there,” said resident Lisa Soto. “They sell everything here.” That may be, residents say, because police officers are now much more careful about how they interact with people—more cautious when dealing with suspects and less likely to bother with the kind of nuisance enforcement that was a priority five years ago.
“When you give a lot of leeway like that, the place becomes lawless,” said resident Doug Brinson. “It’s been lawless for five years. Five years people do what they want to do on this block. Five years straight.” Crime is down in the precinct where the neighborhood is located. Through second week of August last year, there were 186 reported robberies or burglaries and 199 felony assaults. This year there have been 97 robberies or burglaries and 178 assaults. The fatal encounter between Garner, a black man, and officer Daniel Pantaleo led the nation’s largest police force to train officers to de-escalate confrontations and to reassess how they interact with the public. All 36,000 officers were required to undergo three days of training, including classes focused on de-escalation. Officers were instructed about fair and impartial policing — how to recognize biases and rely on facts, not racial stereotypes. By March, all patrol officers were equipped with body cameras. The department now requires officers to detail the actions they took each time they used force — not just when they fired their gun.