“I Can’t Breathe!”
It is likely that a police officer will say they used excessive force on a suspect because they tried resisting arrest and put the officer in harms way. Resisting arrest could be fleeing an officer while being arrested, threatening an officer, attacking a police officer or giving false identification such as name and date of birth. In some countries, resisting arrest is a criminal charge and most police officers have the right to use excessive force to control a suspect. However, in most states if the excessive force causes ‘great bodily harm’ to the suspect they have the right to defend themselves.
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner spoke his final words on a city block in Staten Island, New York “I can’t breathe!” Garner was well known in the area for selling untaxed cigarettes nearby the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and was arrested twice and charged with circumventing state tax law earlier that same year. However, on this specific day police officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo took it entirely too far as they immediately recognized Garner and attacked before questioning or before Garner could give signs of resisting arrest. Unarmed Garner’s life was taken at the bare hands of white officer Pantaleo as a result of a chokehold that was recorded by multiple people on the streets of Staten Island. While choking Garner as he tried to “resist arrest” many heard his cry for help as the unarmed man yelled “I can’t breathe!” Instead of being released from the chokehold, Officer Pantaleo and other officers who were at the scene left Garner handcuffed and motionless on the ground without instantly seeking proper medical attention. Before videos were released of the chaos that took place most people had no idea how Garner’s death took place or if the police were the reason behind it.
In most cases it is common that police officers will claim that they used excessive force as a way of controlling a suspect who tried to resist arrest. However, what if the suspect doesn’t show signs of resisting arrest? What is the officer to do? After July 17, 2014 police officers demonstrated that excessive force is used frequently and is fact abused as they result to using it without the suspect showing signs of resisting arrest or having any questionable reasoning.
Baker, Al, J. Goodman, and Benjamin Mueller. “Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“Resisting Arrest When Police Use Excessive Force | Nolo.com.” Nolo.com. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Priority feedback was requested.
P1. The content here is strong rebuttal material, fc. Your causal chain is also pretty clear:
—several behaviors classify as resisting arrest
—[which ones qualify as “out of control”?]
—officers can use excessive force to control a suspect
—[in some “countries”? Is the US one of those countries?]\
—excessive force might result in great bodily harm
—suspects can defend themselves against great bodily harm
But the logic isn’t as tight as it needs to be. For example, you say the suspect resisted arrest AND put the officer in harm’s way. Does that mean harm’s way is required before force can be used? Another example, the suspect can defend himself against great bodily harm, but does that mean the officer has exceeded his authority?
Here’s what isn’t clear. If a suspect gives a false name, which qualifies as resisting arrest, is the officer then authorized to use excessive force to bring the suspect under control? Or is the threat of harm to the officer required? And what country’s rules apply here? We’re really only interested in what’s legal in the US.
FAILS FOR GRAMMAR NOTE. You make several violations of the Absolutely Essential Grammar Rules in this paragraph alone, fc. [Rules 4 and 11] Now is the time of the semester, when your final arguments are taking shape, to clean up every grammar offense so the version you post in your portfolio is error-free. The rules are very basic and don’t begin to cover all grammar, but they are the bare essentials. Study them carefully and follow them. I have highlighted a few words that need your attention. There are other problems too, but this will get you started.
P2. This is a well told and moving report, fc.
I will point out just two misplaced modifiers that will help you here and in future.
When you say,
you unintentionally indicate that the many who heard his cry for help were choking Garner. They were not of course, but their placement in the sentence makes it seem so, especially because there’s nobody in the sentence to choke Garner. The solution is EITHER to put the officers in the sentence, or to use the passive for the choking.
With the officers in the sentence
Using the passive for the choking
When you say,
you unintentionally indicate that the officers were being held in a chokehold. They weren’t of course, but their placement in the sentence makes it seem so. The solution here is to release Garner from the chokehold.
Does this help?
P3. Your Rhetorical Question is very unclear, fc. Is it meant to be ironic? Obviously, if arrest is warranted and the suspect doesn’t resist, the answer is: arrest him without force. Your paragraph would be easier to understand without the questions. Eliminating them leaves only claims that are clear and understandable.
You mean “resort” to it, not “result” to it.
If I understand your strategy for this essay, you intend to refute police claims that they use excessive force ONLY to subdue suspects who resist, OR who place officers at risk. Your one example is certainly dramatic and compelling. It’s the four-leaf clover that proves NOT ALL clovers have only three leaves. That’s fine.
Surely there must be other sources that would persuade readers that excessive force is regrettably widespread. Otherwise, they’ll be able to dismiss your example as a “rare exception,” like a four-leaf clover.
I hope this is helpful.
I’m offering deadline extensions to students who received feedback on their Rebuttal Arguments too late to do good rewrites, fromcasablanca. You certainly qualify. Take a few extra days to submit your Rebuttal Rewrite.
Your feedback was very helpful. Thank you Professor!