A Black former police officer in the Buffalo Police Department who was fired in 2008 after she stopped a white cop from choking a Black man two years earlier will get her pension after winning her lawsuit Tuesday, according to the New York Times.
Cariol Horne was fired a year before she was to receive her pension. Tuesday, a state court vacated an earlier ruling upholding her firing.
The saga began in November 2008 when then-Officer Horne got a call from a colleague who needed back up. When she got on the scene, she saw a white cop who was “in a rage,” punching a handcuffed Black man repeatedly in the face as other cops stood by doing nothing. Horne heard the handcuffed man say he wasn’t able to breathe and saw the officer, Greg Kwiatkowski, place Neal Mack in a chokehold. Horne not only intervened and stopped Kwiatkowski from choking Mack, she traded blows with her fellow officer.
Soon after, Horne was reassigned, slammed with departmental charges and fired just one year short of the 20 on the force she needed to collect her full pension. She tried to get the decision reversed but failed each time.
Here is more on the story, per The Times:
On Tuesday, in an outcome explicitly informed by the police killing of George Floyd, a state court judge vacated an earlier ruling that affirmed her firing, essentially rewriting the end of her police career, and granting her the back pay and benefits she had previously been denied.
“The legal system can at the very least be a mechanism to help justice prevail, even if belatedly,” the judge, Justice Dennis E. Ward, wrote.
His ruling also invoked the deaths of Mr. Floyd and Eric Garner, a Black man from Staten Island whose dying words — “I can’t breathe” — have become a national rallying cry against police brutality.
“The time is always right to do right,” added Justice Ward, of State Supreme Court in Erie County, paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In a statement, Ms. Horne, 53, celebrated the decision.
“My vindication comes at a 15-year cost, but what has been gained could not be measured,” she said. “I never wanted another police officer to go through what I had gone through for doing the right thing.”
A lawyer for the white officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Buffalo’s mayor, Byron Brown, said the city had “always supported any additional judicial review available to Officer Horne and respects the court’s decision.”
According to CBS News, Kwiatkowski was sentenced to four months in federal prison in 2018 for a 2009 incident in which he used “unlawful and unreasonable force” against four Black teenagers. His actions included slamming their heads into a vehicle.
In the end, Horne did what she was supposed to do: protect civilians—even if it was from a fellow officer. We need more cops like Horne.