It is impossible not to be heartbroken and horrified by the video of Eric Garner’s death. Yes, he was a chronic lawbreaker. Yes, he was resisting arrest, a profound violation of the rule of law. But that resistance was more exasperated than vicious (though, to be sure, such low-level resistance can unpredictably escalate into more dangerous behavior).
Still, no one deserves to die for such petty law-breaking — as the officers who tried to arrest Garner would undoubtedly agree.
But Mayor de Blasio has made a tragic situation worse by racializing Garner’s death. His public rhetoric following the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for that death has painted a demagogically false picture of the New York Police Department, one that will make his stated goal of improving police-community relations harder to achieve.
The ultimate result — albeit one not yet evidenced in still-dropping numbers — could be a reversal of New York’s stupendous crime decline.