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NYPD chief to rank and file: 'If you hesitate, you get yourself killed'

The NYPD and Eric Garner's family on Thursday reacted publicly to the news that Sgt. Kizzy Adonis would be losing 20 vacation days after being accused of failing to properly supervise officers involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner. Adonis agreed to give up the vacation time to settle her internal disciplinary case. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes; Todd Maisel)

A furious chief of department had a message Thursday for the NYPD rank and file: Don't back off.

Chief of Department Terence Mohanan made his remarks after union officials called for a slowdown in the wake of the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

“I know as a result of the Pantaleo decision that there is a hell of a lot of anger and frustration going out through out the entire department right now,” Monahan said at the weekly Compstat meeting as scores of high ranked NYPD officers sat silently. A video of his talk was later shown departmentwide. 

“A lot of advice has been given out to cops on how they should deal with someone who is resisting arrest, how they should deal with arrest situation And I am going to tell you right now, that is pretty bad advice,” barked Monahan.

Monahan was referring to comments made by Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch on Monday after Pantaleo was fired for using a banned chokehold during the July, 2014 arrest of Garner for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. While Garner was obese and had asthma, a city medical examiner classified the death as a homicide and said Pantaleo's use of the banned chokehold ultimately led to Garner's death on a Staten Island sidewalk.

Lynch, in a news conference Monday, had told officers to protect themselves from “unwarranted discipline and legal liability.” He urged them to call for supervisors in possible arrest situations.

But Monahan, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the force, said that advice could have fatal consequences.

“Anyone who is going to hesitate when they are about to lock up a bad guy is endangering their own lives. We do not give criminals the upper hand in an arrest situation……if you hesitate, you get yourself killed,” Monahan said.

In his message the chief referred to recent videos showing cops being assaulted, saying forcefully:  “No one in this city is allowed to resist arrest and no one is allowed to put their hands on a cop.”

The city PBA board has been considering a resolution of no confidence in both NYPD commissioner James O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio over the firing of Pantaleo by O’Neill. 

Lynch had told cops that before they touch a prisoner they should tell suspects why they were being taken into custody and to place their hands behind their back.  Lynch also said cops shouldn’t wait for a supervisor “if immediate action was needed to protect life and personal safety of all persons present.”

After Monahan's remarks Thursday, Lynch said: “Chief Monahan is totally out of touch with the reality on the streets in today’s anti-police climate.”  

Also Thursday, the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association gave its backing to Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, who was briefly on the scene during the fatal encounter with Garner and was brought up on charges of failure to supervise. On Wednesday, officials announced they had settled the case against Adonis without the need for a departmental trial and penalized her the accrued equivelant of 20 vacation days.

At a news conference Thursday, Sergeant's Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins said Adonis was the junior supervisor of the team attempting to arrest Garner and that she arrived seven to ten seconds after the chokehold was used.

At the union offices wristbands were available that read “KIZZY’S Career Matters” -- an apparent variation on the Black Lives Matter mantra galvanized in part by the Garner case.

Adonis  agreed to enter a nolo contendere plea in which she didn’t admit guilt and lost the 20 vacation days, Mullins said.

“This plea became acceptable to Sergeant Adonis not because she felt she did anything wrong but because she and SBA have absolutely no faith in the disciplinary  system within the NYPD,” said Mullins.

"The disciplinary process has now concluded, and we need to turn the page and put this chapter behind us." de Blasio said at an unrelated event in the Bronx. 

He said he would support a reexamination of the statute of limitations in state law that caps the start of the disciplinary process for civil servants such as cops to 18 months from the incident, except in certain egregious circumstances.

Kirsten John Foy, an activist and Garner family supporter, said he wants the Staten Island district attorney’s office to compare this year’s Pantaleo tribunal testimony with the grand jury minutes from 2014, when Pantaleo was not indicted, to check for inconsistency and possible perjury. 

Garner mother, Gwen Carr, said Adonis was the least responsible — and that the other cops on the scene the day of Garner’s death should be disciplined too. 

“What I blame Kizzy for — cause she is a black woman — she should have understood for even the short time that she was on the scene she should have looked down at this black man on the ground ... she should have made them get up off my son.”

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