Fox News host Steve Doocy and guest Bo Dietl exploited the death of a Staten Island man at the hands of the New York Police Department (NYPD) to attack Mayor Bill de Blasio and push for increased use of aggressive police tactics like stop-and-frisk and chokeholds. Dietl went as far as to suggest the autopsy of the man's death was fraudulent, calling for an “independent” medical examiner to inspect the event.
Eric Garner, 43, died in July after a confrontation with police turned physical. One officer put Garner into a chokehold, which an autopsy later pegged as the primary cause of the man's death. The medical examiner ruled the event a homicide.
On August 6, Fox & Friends aired footage of Garner's deadly confrontation with police while co-host Steve Doocy cited “critics” who say the streets of New York “are much less safe” under De Blasio because of his “plans to stop, or at least scale back, stop-and-frisk.” Meanwhile, an on-air graphic decried the supposed “anti-cop mentality” in New York.
Doocy invited former NYPD officer and racial profiling advocate Bo Dietl to discuss the incident and whether “the guys on the street are demoralized” by New York's move away from aggressive policing. Dietl claimed that officers are “disgusted” by the change and bragged that he had used the chokehold seen in the video “dozens of times.” He went on to suggest the medical examiner's report was erroneous, saying, “I want to see an autopsy report where there is a crushed windpipe ... I'm going to hire an independent medical examiner to look at that autopsy report.”
Dietl followed up, saying it's “bad enough that they took the stop-and-frisk away, which is ridiculous.”
Dietl provided no evidence to back his suggestion that the medical examiner in Garner's case was not “independent,” an apparent implication that the doctor's findings were politically motivated.
And Dietl's nostalgia for police chokeholds was missing important context. Both Dietl and Doocy failed to note that the NYPD has banned the use of chokeholds -- or any police maneuver that puts “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air” -- for more than two decades. The reason for the 1993 ban was simple: chokeholds kill people. As The New York Times noted at the time:
The policy in New York grew from concern about the rising number of deaths in police custody over the last eight years, including that of Federico Pereira, a 21-year-old Queens man who in 1991 died of what the medical examiners called “traumatic asphyxia.” Five officers were charged, but the charges against four were dropped and the fifth was acquitted.
New York City has not trained police cadets in the use of choke holds for at least 10 years, Chief Timoney and other experts said, and their use here has been less controversial and apparently apparently less widespread than in Los Angeles. In that city between 1977 and 1982, 16 people died in cases in which the choke hold was used -- twice as many as in the 20 other largest police departments combined, said James J. Fyfe, a professor a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia and a former city police officer who has studied police brutality.
Fox's lamentations didn't note that New York's move away from aggressive stop-and-frisk policing is based on constitutional concerns. In 2013, before de Blasio took office, a federal court found the NYPD's use of the law enforcement tactic unconstitutionally amounted to “a policy of indirect racial profiling” and ordered several reforms. After taking office in 2014, de Blasio did put an end to the city's appeal of the court decision.
Fox also ignored statistical evidence suggesting there's no correlation between a drop in police stops and increased violent crime. In July, The New York Daily News reported that over the past four years, “the number of stops made by police fluctuated with no apparent relationship” to the total number of shootings in the city.