New York City Mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Bill de Blasio has no regrets over how he handled the legal proceedings of Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who killed Eric Garner. During his interview with The Root, de Blasio acknowledged the frustrations of New Yorkers who wanted him to call for the firing of Pantaleo (legally, he can’t, as mayor do so) and to be more vocal about the case.
When senior reporter Terrell Jermaine Starr asked the mayor why voters should expect him to address police brutality issues nationally when he is perceived as being able to address them locally, de Blasio stood firm in his belief that he handled the Garner case with as much integrity as he could.
“I don’t blame anyone, given the intense, honest emotions and beliefs where people would say, ‘Just fire the guy from day one.’ First of all, I remind everyone we all believe in due process. If the show was ever on the other foot, we’d want due process,” he said. “Second, there is state law that stipulates that only the police commissioner can make that decision. Third, we have the U.S. Department of Justice telling us don’t do anything. They were going to potentially bring higher charges and they told us not to act. All of that is hard for everyday people to understand. But, in the end, I am working from a place of conscience, saying, ‘What’s the best thing for this city and ultimately for this country as well?’ To have a fair and just process that lead to an outcome where there was accountability and now we have to move on to the much bigger work of making sure it doesn’t happen again.
“As president, I would draw on that experience because a lot of the other folks who are running, again, very good people, they’ve never dealt with anything like this. A lot of people running have never had to deal with the complexity of a situation like this and trying to make change in an often contentious atmosphere.”
In the first part of a two-part video interview with de Blasio, The Root asked him how running New York City preps him for presidency (00:30), what he would do to help raise the minimum wage across the country to $15 an hour (02:15) and decriminalizing marijuana (07:12).
He also addresses criticisms over fare evasion crackdowns and how some believe it criminalizes black people (11:06) as well as his challenges of addressing police abuse in New York and how he’d address it nationally (15:15).
We asked de Blasio about ongoing stop and frisk racial disparities (16:15), Eric Garner, Pantaleo’s firing (22:58), why he doesn’t support eliminating qualified immunity for police officers (25:20) and about the backlash he faced after talking about having the “police talk” with his black son (32:48).
Part 2 of the interview drops tomorrow.