The Cult of Compliance and the Chokehold

“When Garner refused orders to put his hands behind his back, one of the plainclothes cops, wearing a green T-shirt with a yellow No. 99 on the back, got behind him and put him in a chokehold, the footage shows.
A struggle ensued as three uniformed officers joined in on the arrest, knocking the man to the ground.
He screamed, “I can’t breathe!” six times before he went silent and paramedics were called.”

A  man who was not breaking the law died after the police put him in a chokehold. We can, and should, talk about this through the lens of race and the NYPD for sure. He was big black man. We can also talk about the choke-hold and its place in police procedure. It has none. We can also talk about disability, the lens to which I am drawn – diabetes and asthma.

But all of this falls under the general issue of the cult of compliance as well. This man was not a risk. He was not hurting anyone. He wasn’t doing anything wrong (sometimes he sells unlicensed cigarettes, but was not in this case).  In fact, by all reports, he had just broken up a fight.

But he wasn’t complying with police orders, that became the justification for force, and now Garner is dead.

I see stories like this every week, not always fatal, not always racially-charged, not always urban. Every week, someone doesn’t obey an officer and the officers treat non-compliance as if there were a threat, so they get physical.

It has to stop. It isn’t stopping.

2 Replies to “The Cult of Compliance and the Chokehold”

  1. Amy Farland says:

    somehow the time honored imperative to protect the civilian public has morphed into to protect themselves first and foremost, even at the expense of civilian lives.

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